In a setback for the mosque committee in one of the main cases involving Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Mosque, the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea that requested it to scrap a civil suit being heard in a local court.
The lawsuit filed by a group of Hindu women worshippers seeking the right to pray in the Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi was valid, the court ruled, allowing the case to continue in the Varanasi District Court.
The litigants in the case – Lakshmi Devi, Rekha Pathak, Sita Sahu and Manju Vyas – had filed the case in August 2021 seeking the right to regularly worship goddess Shringar Gauri and other deities whose idols they claimed were located in the mosque’s complex.
The maintainability of this case was upheld by the Varanasi district judge in September 2022.
The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM) Committee and the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board had petitioned the high court to overturn the September 2022 ruling, arguing that it is not maintainable under the Places of Worship Act of 1991 and the Central Waqf Act of 1995.
The Allahabad High Court, after hearing the arguments, had reserved its decision on December 23, 2022.
The case was one of the several spawned from a ruling in April 2021, when the Varanasi court directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a comprehensive survey of the mosque complex following a petition by Hindu groups.
A pre-existing legal order has allowed hundreds of Hindu women to symbolically worship the goddess Shringar Gauri once a year in the complex.