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Plaint Avers Hindu Deities Were Worshipped Inside Gyanvapi Mosque Complex Even After Aug 15, 1947; Places Of Worship Act No Bar To Suit: Varanasi Court

Sparsh Upadhyay
12 Sep 2022 11:24 AM GMT
Plaint Avers Hindu Deities Were Worshipped Inside Gyanvapi Mosque Complex Even After Aug 15, 1947; Places Of Worship Act No Bar To Suit: Varanasi Court
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The Varanasi Court today dismissed the Anjuman Islamia Masjid committee's plea (filed under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC) challenging the maintainability of the suit filed by five Hindu women (plaintiffs) seeking worshipping rights in the Gyanvapi Mosque compound.

District Judge Ajay Krishna Vishwesha observed that the suit of the plaintiffs is not barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, The Waqf Act 1995 , and the U.P. Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983 as was being claimed by the Anjuman Masjid Committee (which manages Gyanvapi Masjid).

With this, the Anjuman Islamia Committee's challenge to the maintainability of the suit has been rejected. Now, the suit of the Hindu worshippers will be heard further by the Varanasi Court.

Regarding the applicability of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 as a bar to the suit filed by the Hindu women worshippers, the Court specifically held that since the Hindu Worshippers claim that the Hindu deities were being worshipped by them inside the masjid complex even after August 15, 1947 (which is the cut off date provided under the Places of Worship Act), therefore, this act will have no applicability here in this case.

"In the present case, the plaintiffs are demanding right to worship Maa Sringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh, and Lord Hanuman at the disputed property, therefore, Civil Court has jurisdiction to decide this case. Further, according to the pleadings of the plaintiffs, they were worshipping Maa Sringar Gauri, Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesh at the disputed place incessantly since a long time till 1993. After 1993, they were allowed to worship the above mentioned Gods only once in a year under the regulatory of State of Uttar Pradesh. Thus, according to plaintiffs, they worshipped Maa Sringar Gauri, Lord Hanuman at the disputed place regularly even after 15th August, 1947. Therefore, The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 does not operate as bar on the suit of the plaintiffs and the suit of plaintiffs is not barred by Section 9 of the Act," the Court remarked.

Here it may be noted that the provisions of the 1991 Act make it clear that all places of worship existing in the country will remain as they were on August 15, 1947, and cases seeking conversion of a place of worship to that of another religion or faith "shall abate."

In this regard, the Court noted that the plaintiffs (Hindu Women Worshippers) are claiming only the right to worship at the disputed property and that they want to worship Maa Sringar Gauri and other visible and invisible deities with the contention that they worshipped there till the year 1993.

The Court further stressed that the plaintiffs are not claiming ownership over the disputed property as they have not filed the suit for declaration that the disputed property is a temple and therefore also, the Places of Worship Act has no applicability as the plaintiffs are not seeking a declaration or injunction over the property

"The plaintiffs are only demanding right to worship Maa Sringar Gauri and other visible and invisible deities which were being worshipped incessantly till 1993 and after 1993 till now once in a year under the regulatory of State of Uttar Pradesh. Therefore, the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 does not operate as the bar on the suit of plaintiffs. The suit of the plaintiffs is limited and confined to the right of worship as a civil right and fundamental right as well as customary and religious right," the Court added.

The Court also emphasized that irrespective of the status of a mosque in an Islamic country for the purpose of immunity from acquisition by the State in the exercise of the sovereign power, its status, and immunity from an acquisition in the secular ethos of India under the Constitution is the same and equal to that of the places of worship of the other religions, namely, church, temple, etc.

"It is neither more nor less than that of the places of worship of the other religions. Obviously, the acquisition of any religious place is to be made only in unusual and extraordinary situations for a larger national purpose keeping in view that such acquisition should not result in extinction of the right to practise the religion, if the significance of that place be such. Subject to this condition, the power of acquisition is available for a mosque like any other place of worship of any religion," the Court observed.

In yet another significant assertion, the Court also observed that the destruction of the idol does not result in the termination of the pious purpose and consequently the endowment and therefore, even where the idol is destroyed, or the presence of the idol itself is intermittent or entirely absent, the legal personality created by the endowment continues to subsist.

In this regard, the Court also referred to the example of idols that are routinely submerged in water as a matter of religious practice. The Court noted that it cannot be said that the pious purpose is also extinguished due to such submersion.

In its order, the Court also observed that the bar under Section 85 of the Waqf Act does not operate in the instant case because the plaintiffs are non-Muslims and strangers to the alleged Waqf created at the disputed property and relief claimed in the suit is not covered under Sections 33, 35, 47, 48, 51, 54, 61, 64, 67, 72 & 73 of the Waqf Act. Hence, the suit of the plaintiffs is not barred by Section 85 of the Waqf Act 1995, the Court held.

Lastly, the Court also held that no bar has been imposed by the U.P. Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983 regarding a suit claiming a right to worship idols installed in the endowment within the premises of the temple, or outside.

Consequently, the application filed by the Anjuman Islamia Committee under Order 7 Rule 11 C.P.C. was dismissed and the Court fixed 22.09.2022 for filing of a written statement and framing of issues.

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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