The Supreme Court declined to stay the Allahabad High Court order allowing the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a survey at the Gyanvapi premises in Varanasi.
During the hearing of a plea by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee against the Allahabad High Court order, the top court emphasised the Places of Worship Act, 1991.
This act prohibits altering the character of a place of worship as it existed on 15 August 1947. However, the court acknowledged that the key question was determining the religious character of the place on that specific date.
In response to the counsel representing the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee, who inquired about ordering a survey based on a frivolous claim, Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud stated that what may seem frivolous to one party could be a matter of faith for the other side.
He added that it would be inappropriate for the court to comment on whether a claim is frivolous.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing the mosque management committee, argued that the survey conducted by the ASI was a violation of the Places of Worship Act, as it delved into history and undermined the principles of fraternity and secularism.
The mosque panel informed the top court that the ASI survey would delve into the history of events that occurred 500 years ago and may reopen old wounds.
The challenge made by the Gyanvapi mosque committee against the order of a Varanasi district court, which called for a scientific investigation/survey/excavation of the premises, was previously also dismissed by the Allahabad HC.
The court stated that a scientific survey is necessary in the interest of justice.
The ASI is now able to proceed once again with the survey that was initiated on 24 July, but had to be halted due to the intervention of the Supreme Court.
The Gyanvapi mosque is located adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi.
Historical records indicate that it was constructed in the seventh century under the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who had the original Kashi Vishwanath Temple destroyed.
Subsequently, the present temple was built next to the mosque in the late eighteenth century on the orders of Queen Ahilya Bai Holkar.
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