In a significant improvement, the district court of Varanasi has passed the survey of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex by the Archaeological Survey of India. The court has also ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to support the value of the survey. The order came on a petition registered by a local lawyer VS Rastogi who had necessitated the reconstruction of the land involving Gyanvapi Mosque to Hindus. The Gyanvyapi Mosque management committee had rejected the petition.
The Gyanvapi Mosque, which abutted the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, was constructed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1669 after purportedly destroying a Hindu temple. Hindus affirm that the original Vishwanath Temple existed on the site of the alleged destruction. An appeal was filed by Hindus in the Varanasi district court in 1991 asking for ownership of the argued place. The Muslim side is also a party in the matter.
The Act, taken in by the P V Narasimha Rao-led Congress government while the height of the Ram temple movement, also refers to the disputed Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex in Varanasi and the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple-Shahi Idgah Mosque in Mathura – two places, once a section of the temple drives, later protected by the 1991 law. Even the Supreme Court, in its landmarking November 2019 directing on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid power suit which went in support of the Hindu parties, had stressed that the Act is “a legislative intervention which preserves non-retrogression as an essential feature of our secular values”.
In its order, the court stated the Director-General of ASI shall form a 5-member committee of prominent persons who are specialists and well-versed in the science of archaeology, two out of which should rather belong to the minority community. The Places of Worship Act was braced by a 5-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya judgment.