On Wednesday, the petitioners told the Varanasi court that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 does not apply in the Gyanvapi Mosque case.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has opposed a plea in the Supreme Court which challenged the Places of Worship Act, saying that the Act was made with the “noble intention to prevent disharmony in society”. The AIMPLB said the Act was introduced to avoid any kind of tension which erupted after Babri Masjid demolition.
On Wednesday, the petitioners told the Varanasi court that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 does not apply in the Gyanvapi Mosque-Shringar Gauri complex case and Hindus should not be allowed to offer prayers there. The court is hearing a plea by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee (AIMC) challenging the maintainability of a suit filed by Hindu women seeking permission for daily worship at the Shringar Gauri Sthal in the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi complex.
District Government Counsel Rana Sanjiv Singh said lawyers Harishankar Jain and Vishnu Jain put forth arguments for the Hindu side. The arguments will continue today.
Relying on a 1994 ruling of the Supreme Court, which held that it is not mandatory for Muslims to offer prayers in a mosque, advocates for the petitioners from Hindu side on Wednesday told a Varanasi court that the Places of Worship Act, 1991, does not apply in the Gyanvapi mosque-Shringar Gauri complex case while arguing for the right to offer prayers in the mosque premises.
In the 1994 ruling — Ismail Faruqi versus Union of India — the apex court held that a mosque is not an “essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”, and that namaz can be offered anywhere.
Harishankar Jain told the court that the land on which the Muslim side is staking a claim is of Aadi Vishweshwar Mahadev, the presiding deity of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, and that namaz was offered forcibly there. He claimed that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 is not applicable in the matter.
The Act prohibits conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.
The Muslim side on Tuesday completed its arguments on the maintainability of the case.
A lower court had ordered a videography survey of the complex. The survey work was completed on May 16 and the report was presented in the court on May 19.
The Hindu side had claimed in the court that a Shivling was found during the videography survey of the Gyanvapi mosque-Shringar Gauri complex. On the order of the Supreme Court later, the matter is now being heard in the district judge's court from May 23.