Hindustan Times (Jammu)

Waqf board moves HC to stay ASI survey at Gyanvapi

- Jitendra Sarin letters@hindustant­imes.com

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board on Tuesday moved an urgent petition before the Allahabad high court in the Kashi Vishwanath Mandi-Gyanvapi Masjid case in which the trial court at Varanasi allowed an Archeologi­cal Survey of India (ASI) study of the mosque.

The board’s standing counsel, Puneet Kumar Gupta, argued that the trial court passed the order illegally and without its jurisdicti­on as the matter is in the high court and justice Prakash Pandia reserved its order on March 15 this year.

“We moved the Allahabad High Court today against the judgment of the lower court and filed a petition,” Gupta, a permanent advocate of the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, told news agency PTI.

Earlier on Monday, the management committee of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Mosque also filed an urgent petition in the Allahabad high court seeking a stay on the April 8 order of a local court allowing a survey to determine whether the Muslim place of worship was built after destroying parts of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

In its petition filed, the committee has said that the order was passed illegally and without jurisdicti­on. It argued the order came even as the high court had reserved its judgment on the maintainab­ility of the suit pending in the Varanasi court.

“The [Varanasi] court should not have passed any order in the suit till the issue of maintainab­ility of the suit was decided,” said SFA Naqvi, the committee’s lawyer.

“Further, the lower court ignored the entire written submission­s and the applicabil­ity of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and Order 7 Rule 11D of the Civil Procedure Code while passing the order.”

The 1991 law froze lawsuits to reclaim any place of worship after India was declared independen­t, except Ayodhya. The Supreme Court last month agreed to review the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act.

On April 8, civil judge (senior division) Ashutosh Tiwari ordered the formation of a fivemember committee, comprising two Hindu, two Muslim members, and an archaeolog­ical expert, to oversee the “comprehens­ive physical survey” of the centuries-old Gyanvapi mosque complex. The plea in the case contended the mosque in Varanasi was a part of the temple.

The Archaeolog­ical Survey of India ( ASI) will conduct the exercise without any media briefings, Tiwari ordered as he fixed May 31 as the next date of hearing.

“This court finds that survey by ASI alone can bring the truth of the matter before this court.

Irrespecti­ve of what surfaces, the survey by ASI may go on to help not only to the plaintiffs but also to the defendants, if their version is indeed true,” the lower court order said.

The order was passed in a 1991 suit stayed by the high court in 1998. The trial was re-commenced by the Varanasi court, which held that the stay stood vacated in light of the Supreme Court’s directions in the Asian Resurfacin­g of Road Agency Pvt Ltd case. The apex court had held in this case that a stay granted by a court will end on expiry of six months from the date of such order unless a similar extension is granted.

The suit was filed in 1991 seeking restoratio­n of the ancient temple at the site where the Gyanvapi mosque currently stands. On March 15, the high court reserved its judgment in various pleas challengin­g the maintainab­ility of the 1991 suit before the Varanasi court.

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