The trial in the Gnanavabi case will resume tomorrow in a district court in Varanasi. The Masjid Committee will continue to argue the maintenance of Right of Worship petitions filed by the Hindu petitioners.
Arguments will be held till July 12 on behalf of the Anjuman Intejamia Masjid Committee.
Abhay Nath Yadav, counsel for the Masjid Committee, is expected to present precedential judgments and legal arguments regarding the maintenance of worship rights petitions filed by the Hindu petitioners.
In its petition, the committee has argued that the petitions filed by Hindu women devotees, who claim the right to perform daily worship at the Sringar Gauri temple in the mosque premises and remove a portion of the mosque, should be renovated. 1991 Places of Worship cannot be maintained under the provisions of the Act.
So far, in the three-day hearing, the Masjid Committee lawyer has gone through all the passages and arguments in the petitions filed by the Hindu devotees. He also touched upon the history of the controversy to argue that the petitions were not maintainable.
On Tuesday, the lawyer is expected to go into the legal nuances of arguments related to the 1991 Places of Worship Act and the Supreme Court judgment in the Ayodhya case and other cases where the 1991 Act has been held to be a valid law.
The case is being heard before the District and Sessions Judge, Varanasi, with strict restrictions on entry of persons into the courtroom and heavy police security. Due to chanting and chaos during the initial trial days in May, the judge ordered that only a limited number of lawyers and litigants in the case be allowed to enter the courtroom.
During the last two hearings, the Varanasi police kept tight arrangements near the courtroom, with barricades on the corridor leading to the district judge’s courtroom and heavy police security. Journalists are also barred from entering the courtroom. Before each hearing, a list of persons authorized to enter the courtroom is given to the guards on duty, and people are prohibited from standing even near the courtroom doors to prevent untoward incidents.
Speaking to India Today after the last hearing on July 4, the Masjid Committee’s lawyer Raees Ahmed said it would take at least 2-3 days for the Muslim side to conclude its arguments. He added that the Places of Worship Act specifically prohibits such petitions to enter a mosque or alter its structure.
The Muslim side also argued that the request to consider the survey report would affect the “religious nature” of the disputed site and therefore the court could not go into the details of the report or what was found on the premises. .
After the arguments of the Muslim side are over, the lawyers of the Hindu petitioners will argue that the petitions are maintainable and can be heard by the court.
In a 1991 petition filed in a Varanasi court, it was alleged that a part of the Kashi Vishwanath temple was demolished in the 16th century on the orders of Aurangzeb to build the Gnanawabi Mosque.
The petitioners and local priests sought permission to offer worship at the Gnanawabi Masjid premises. The Allahabad High Court had in 2019 stayed the ASI survey sought by the petitioners.
The current controversy started when five Hindu women tried to worship the Sringar Gauri and other idols in the Gyanwabi Masjid complex.
They argued in the petition that the mosque complex was “not a true masjid” as the property was not dedicated for waqf but was forcibly built on top of existing temples. They also demanded the removal of the “occupation” and the restoration of the Srirangar Gauri temple.
In April, a Varanasi court ordered a video inspection of the Gnanawabi Masjid complex. The Hindu side claimed that after the survey, a ‘Shivalingam’ was found in the mosque’s vasukana.
The Muslim side approached the Supreme Court seeking a decision to maintain the petition behind the Places of Worship Act. Their counsel appraised the high court that the survey report was leaked to the media despite a court order against it, and alleged that the Hindu side had leaked the report to change its narrative.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court transferred the case from the civil court to the district court, citing the “sensitivity” and “difficulties” of the case.
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