New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside a local court’s order to ban large Muslim prayer gatherings in one of north India’s high-profile mosques, after a survey team found relics of the Hindu god Shiva and other Hindu symbols there.
The top court, in an interim order, stated that the right to prayer of Muslims should not be disturbed, and simultaneously, the area where Hindu religious relics were found, should be protected.
The interim order comes a day after a local court in Varanasi, Hindus’ holiest city and the site of the historic Gyanvapi Mosque, ruled that Islamic gatherings there should be limited to 20 people.
A Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and also comprising Justice PS Narasimha, further issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh Government, Hindu Sena and other parties, and sought their detailed responses on the issue. The Court then fixed the matter for further hearing on May 19.
The Supreme Court in its order said that Shivling area will be protected. Muslims right to prayer, religious observances not to be disturbed inside the Gyanvapi mosque. The Trial Court Judge’s directions that only 20 people will pray Namaz will not operate now.
It directed the District Magistrate of Varanasi to ensure that the Shivaling recovered from the Mosque complex during a survey by the court commissioner be protected.
The top court, however, made it clear that access of Muslims to the Mosque for prayers would not be impeded.
The Court proceeded to issue notice in the matter and passed the following interim order:
“The operation and ambit of the order dated May 16, 2022, shall stand restricted to the extent that the DM Varanasi shall ensure that the area where Shivling is found, will be duly protected. The above direction shall not in any manner restrain or impede access of Muslims to the mosque or use of it for performing prayers and religious observances.”
The Court also said that Muslims will be allowed to perform wazu (cleansing), since it is part of religious observations.
The matter was mentioned by the petitioner’s (The Committee of Management Anjuman Intezamia Masjid) senior lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi, in the morning on Friday for an early hearing, to which, the Supreme Court refused to pass any interim order on that day. However, it said that it will go through the papers and documents and will list it for hearing.
The Supreme Court had, on May 13, refused to pass any order in the appeal mentioned by the petitioner, The Committee of management of the Anjuman-e intezamia Masjid, Varanasi, against the Allahabad High Court’s order, which allowed an advocate commissioner to survey the Gyanvapi mosque.