Varanasi district court to begin hearing Gyanvapi Mosque case todaytext_fields
Varanasi's seniormost judge will hear the Gyanvapi case today, days after ruling that a plea by five Hindu women to pray year-long at a shrine inside the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, next to the famous Kashi Viswanath temple, is legally maintainable.
In its order of September 12, the Varanasi court said the petitioners were not asking to "convert" the mosque into a temple but a right to "worship" at the "disputed" property all year round. Under a law made in 1991, places of worship should be allowed to exist as they were on August 15, 1947. The Babri Masjid case was the exception.
A challenge by Muslim petitioners, mainly the mosque administrators, who wanted the petition thrown out, was rejected by the judge, who said the petition has no merit.
The Muslim petitioners have now filed an application seeking 8 weeks to prepare for the case before it is heard further. The lawyers for the Hindu women say they will ask for a fresh survey at the mosque by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Earlier this year, a lower court in Varanasi had ordered the filming of the centuries-old mosque based on the petition of the women.
The videography report, controversially leaked by the Hindu petitioners, claimed a "Shivling" or relic of Lord Shiva had been found in a pond within the mosque complex used for "Wazoo" or purification rituals before Muslim prayers.
The filming inside the mosque was challenged in the Supreme Court by the Gyanvapi mosque committee, which said the move violates the 1991 law (Places of Worship Act).
In May, the Supreme Court assigned the case to the city's most senior judge, referring to the "complexity and sensitivity" of the dispute that it said requires experienced handling.
The Gyanvapi mosque located in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency (Varanasi), is one of the several mosques that Hindu hardliners believe were built on the ruins of temples.
On the day the Varanasi court passed the order accepting the maintainability of the Hindu women's petition, a fresh case was filed in Mathura seeking the shifting of Meena Masjid. It adds to demands for shifting of the Shahi Masjid Idgah, which petitioners say is built over the birthplace of Lord Krishna within the 13-acre Katra Keshav Deo temple complex.