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Abhishek Singhvi Stunned As Court Orders Kashi Temple Survey; Muslim Law Board To Contest

Muslim Personal Law Board & UP Sunni Central Waqf Board will challenge the court's orders to conduct an archaeological survey at the Kashi Vishwanath temple


PTI composite image

In the latest development, the Muslim Personal Law Board and the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board are likely to challenge a Varanasi court's orders to conduct an archaeological survey at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque premises. The court's order came on a plea filed by Vijay Shankar Rastogi who contended that the entire premises belonged to the temple alone. Opposing the orders of the Civil Judge, Muslim Personal Law Board's Zafaryab Jilani claimed that the order was totally wrong and that no other court had the jurisdiction to pass orders as the matter was already pending before the High Court. Terming the order as 'illegal and unjustified', the Muslim Personal Law Board member informed that the decision would be challenged at the district court or the High Court. 

Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board noted that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 had barred such surveys from being conducted at the premises of the Gyanvapi Masjid. The Board's chairman Zufar Ahmad Faruqi claimed that no evidence had been produced to the court so far to prove the prior existing temple at the site of the mosque and that the status of Gyanvapi Masjid is, as such, beyond question as the Places of Worship Act was upheld by a 5 judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya judgment. He informed of the Board's decision to approach the High Court to challenge the 'unwarranted order' and claimed that the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) needed to stop 'investigating mosques'. Congress MP and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi noted that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 prohibited inquiry into places of worship including Kashi and Mathura and claimed that it was astonishing for the judge to pass interim orders as it could only be done so after the Act was struck down. 

UP court orders survey at Kashi Vishwanath temple

Asserting that the original Kashi Vishwanath Temple was built over 2000 years ago, the petitioner Vijay Shankar Rastogi claimed that the Gyanvapi Mosque was constructed after the temple was demolished by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1669. The temple was re-constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar in 1780. He also maintained that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 was not applicable to this suit. Barring for the litigation on the Ayodhya land dispute, this law prohibited courts from entertaining any petition that would alter the status quo of a religious place as existed on August 15, 1947. Moreover, Rastogi cited the outcome of the Ayodhya land dispute to highlight that the issue can be resolved with the excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Agreeing with this prayer, Civil Judge Ashutosh Tewari directed a 5-member ASI team to study the entire premises, the cost of which will be borne by the Uttar Pradesh government. On the other hand, the Sunni Central Waqf Board had pleaded that the situation as it was on August 15, 1947, should continue. It has now decided to challenge this order before the Allahabad High Court. Soon after the verdict, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy exuded confidence in taking the matter to its logical conclusion. 

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