This article on ‘Gyanvapi Mosque Committee Challenges Varanasi Court’s ASI Survey Order’ was written by Anukriti Prakash, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The Gyanvapi Mosque-Kashi Vishwanath Temple dispute is one of India’s longest-running religious conflicts. The issue is focused on who owns the land on which the Gyanvapi Mosque exists, with Hindu parties saying that the mosque was constructed on the site of an old Kashi Vishwanath Temple that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb demolished.
The controversy has been the subject of multiple legal disputes, and a recent Varanasi court ruling for an ASI assessment of the site has re-ignited the debate. The Gyanvapi mosque committee has now filed an appeal with the Allahabad High Court, claiming that the survey will breach the mosque’s status as a protected monument. The dispute revived an argument in India about religious tolerance and the preservation of cultural heritage.
This article is an attempt to analyse the facts, issues and the recent happening in this dispute.
The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which is responsible for managing 22 mosques including the Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi, has submitted a petition to the Allahabad High Court. The petition challenges the District Court’s verdict of July 21, which ordered an ASI survey of the Mosque Premises (except for Wuzukhana).
The Supreme Court ordered that the Varanasi Court’s ruling should not be implemented until 5 p.m. on July 26 in order to give the Masjid committee some “breathing time” to seek the High Court. The plea was submitted the next day. A bench consisting of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra issued the Supreme Court’s ruling on July 24. Before its temporary injunction expires on July 26, the ruling asked the High Court Chief Justice to permit a hearing on Masjid’s plea.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) notified the three-judge bench during the hearing that it does not plan to conduct any excavations at the Gyanvapi site for at least a week. In contrast, the Varanasi District Court authorized excavation to determine if the 16th-century mosque was constructed on an earlier temple.
CONTENTIONS OF BOTH THE PARTIES
The Hindu groups contend that the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb demolished, was located where the Gyanvapi Mosque is now located. They contend that the mosque ought to be taken down and the temple restored. To support this assertion, they have referred to several kinds of historical and archaeological sources and documents.
On the other hand, the mosque committee argues that the mosque is a protected monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. They argue that the ASI survey would violate the mosque’s status as a protected monument and that the survey could damage the mosque’s structure.
The Varanasi court ordered the ASI survey of the site to determine the truth behind the claims made by the Hindu groups. The mosque committee has challenged this order in the Allahabad High Court, arguing that the survey would violate the mosque’s status as a protected monument.
The case is still ongoing, and it remains to be seen what the final decision will be.
RECENT EVENTS OF THE GYANVAPI MOSQUE CASE
The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which is responsible for managing the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, moved to the Allahabad High Court to challenge a District Court’s verdict that ordered an ASI survey of the mosque premises (except for Wuzukhana). The committee’s contention that the District Court’s ruling was made without taking into account the mosque’s status as a protected monument under the 1958 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act forms the basis of its petition.
The committee has further argued that the District Court lacked the authority to issue such an order. Additionally, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee has claimed that the District Court’s ruling infringes on their basic right of religion to practice and promote their belief under Article 25 of the Constitution. The committee claims that the ASI survey would violate their right to free exercise of religion and harm the mosque beyond restoration.
The committee has also argued that the District Court’s order is based on a misinterpretation of the Archaeological Survey of India Act, 1958, and that the District Court had no power to order an ASI survey of the mosque. The Allahabad High Court is currently hearing the case, and the next hearing is scheduled for July 27.
The Gyanvapi Mosque dispute has been ongoing for several years. The recent developments in the case have led to a lot of controversy and unrest. The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee’s plea in the Allahabad High Court challenges the Varanasi Court’s order for an ASI survey of the mosque premises. The committee claims that the poll would violate their right to free exercise of religion and harm the mosque beyond repair. The Allahabad High Court is now hearing the matter, and the next hearing has been scheduled for July 27. The outcome of this case will have far-reaching implications for the country.
- Apurva Vishwanath, “Gyanvapi Mosque case: what the Varanasi court said”, Indian Express, 15 September 2022, available at: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/gyanvapi-mosque-case-what-the-varanasi-court-said-8147303/ (Last Visited: 25 July 2023).
- “Mosque Committee moves Allahabad HC against Gyanvapi Masjid Survey Order”, DT next, 25 July 2023, available at: https://www.dtnext.in/news/national/mosque-committee-moves-allahabad-hc-against-gyanvapi-masjid-survey-order-726242?infinitescroll=1 (Last Visited: 26 July 2023).
- “Gyanvapi: ‘ASI survey will create some upheaval in country’: Mosque Committee argues in High Court challenging Varanasi court order”, Live Law, 25 July 2023, available at: https://www.livelaw.in/high-court/allahabad-high-court/allahabad-high-court-gyanvapi-asi-survey-upheaval-country-mosque-committee-argues-varanasi-court-233601#:~:text=Challenging%20the%20Varanasi%20Court’s%20order,some%20upheaval%20in%20the%20country. (Last Visited: 26 July 2023).