Court Allows Civil Suits Seeking Temple Restoration At Varanasi’s Gyanvapi


In a crucial judgment in the Gyanvapi case, the Allahabad High Court today rejected all petitions by the mosque committee challenging civil suits that seek restoration of a temple at the mosque site. The high court asked the Varanasi court to complete hearing in one of these civil suits, filed in 1991, within six months. 

The case relates to Gyanvapi mosque, located next to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. The high court was hearing five petitions – three from the Gyanvapi mosque committee and two from Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board. Three of these petitions challenged the maintainability of a suit filed before the Varanasi court in 1991. 

The 1991 suit, filed before the Varanasi court on behalf of deity Adi Vishveswar Virajman, had sought control of the disputed premises and permission for worship there. Challenging this suit, the Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee and UP Sunni Central Waqf Board had argued that it is not maintainable under the Places of Worship Act (Special Provisions) Act of 1991, which restricts altering the character of a religious places as it existed on August 15, 1947.

The petitioners of the 1991 suit had argued that Gyanvapi dispute pre-dated Independence and will not come under the Places of Worship Act. 

Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal today said the 1991 suit is maintainable and not barred by the Places of Religious Worship Act, 1991. Justice Agarwal had on December 8 reserved his judgment after hearing the counsels of the petitioners and the respondent. 

The court today said the mosque compound can have either a Muslim character or a Hindu character and this cannot be decided at the stage of framing issues. “The suit affects two major communities of the country… We direct the trial court to expeditiously decide the suit in 6 months,” the court said. 

The suit pending before the Varanasi court seeks the restoration of an ancient temple at the disputed site where the mosque is now located. It argues that the mosque is part of the temple.

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