By Our Editorial Team
First publised on 2022-09-13 03:48:50
The order passed by Varanasi District Judge A K Vishvesha saying that the petition praying for daily worshipping rights at Shringar Gauri and other visible and invisible deities inside the Gyanvapi complex was maintainable and hearing will continue in the case is likely to have far reaching effects, in this case and in other cases involving disputes in mandir-masjid complexes. For one, this order is likely to open the road for a protracted legal battle that is likely to reach the Supreme Court and will also disturb the harmony on the ground.
While deciding on the maintainability the petition, the honourable court junked the three main objections of the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee (AIMC), the body that control the complex. The court ruled that the petition was not barred under the Places of Worship Act as the petitioners were not claiming ownership of the complex nor were they asking to convert it into a temple. Since they were just demanding extension of worshipping rights, it would not, according to the court, amount to changing the character of the place of worship as decreed under the said Act.
It also said that since the petitioners were not Muslims and the Waqf Act had nothing to do with the request for praying rights in a Waqf property, the AIMC argument that the Waqf tribunal in Lucknow was the competent body to decide on the issue was also not correct. The court also ruled that the petition was also not barred under the UP Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act as the said act did not bar worshipping the idols placed within the 'endowments' of the temple complex. The court said that the petition was maintainable and that the case would be heard. The Muslim side said it would appeal against the judgment in the Allahabad High Court.
This order by the Varanasi District Court clearly shows that the Places of Worship Act, 1991, although designed to prevent such disputes, is open to various interpretations and there will be conflicting judgments by the lower judiciary in such matters. Hence, it is important that the Supreme Court take up the issue of the constitutional validity on the Places of Worship Act fast. For, it is that decision and the guidelines that the Supreme Court might issue in that order that will guide the lower judiciary in these matters. Otherwise, conflicting orders will create trouble on the ground.