Supreme Court revokes Allahabad High Court’s order to assess the Mathura Shahi Idgah Mosque

The Supreme Court Bench stated that a "omnibus, vague" plea for an inspection of the Shahi Idgah mosque's Mathura premises resulted in the Allahabad High Court's judgment.

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In the Krishna Janmabhoomi dispute, the Allahabad High Court’s order designating a Commissioner to examine the Shahi Eidgah mosque in Mathura was delayed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, January 16.

The interim order was made by a bench made up of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta while they were giving notice on a special leave petition that the mosque committee had filed in opposition to an Allahabad High Court order from December 14 that had approved an application for the appointment of a court commissioner to inspect the mosque.

The court had concerns with the way the commission proposal was submitted even though it first accepted the legal argument.

“There are legal issues that arise. That apart, the application for local commissioner is very vague. Can an application be made like this? …We are staying the operation of the impugned order to the extent of the commission being executed.…”, Justice Khanna said.

Senior Attorney Shyam Divan argued against the order’s stay on behalf of the plaintiffs, requesting that the High Court be given time to figure out the commission survey’s specifics.

“We have reservations about the application. Look at the prayer. It’s so vague. Read it. You cannot make an omnibus application like this. You have to be very clear what you want the local commissioner to do,” Justice Khanna told Divan.

Notice of the petition was given by the bench, and it was due back on January 23, 2024.  A few legal questions come up for discussion, one of which is how this court’s ruling in Asma Lateef should be interpreted. The bench stated in the judgment that while the High Court’s proceedings can proceed, the commission will not be carried out in the interim.

The deity Bhagwan Shri Krishna Virajman and seven other parties to an initial litigation filed an application under Order XXVI Rule 9 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Allahabad High Court granted their request. The appeal said that there are other indicators proving the mosque’s Hindu provenance, including the location of the Hindu God Krishna’s birthplace beneath it. The main lawsuit, which is currently ongoing before the Allahabad High Court, aims to establish Lord Shree Krishna Virajman’s ownership of the contested land, which includes the Shahi Eidgah Mosque’s location. The plea also asks for the defendants—the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board among them—to be ordered to take down the disputed mosque.

The Supreme Court rejected Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi’s oral request to stay the order for the appointment of a court commissioner on the day after the high court made this decision. The Supreme Court was hearing a special leave petition filed by the mosque committee challenging an order from the Allahabad High Court dated May 2023 that transferred to itself a number of suits related to the land dispute. The Supreme Court stated that the order has not been formally challenged. Subsequently, the Mosque panel officially contested the High Court’s ruling by filing a special leave petition.

The Mosque Committee’s Argument

The mosque committee argues in the special leave petition that the High Court should have taken into account its request to have the plaint rejected before making any decisions about the suit’s other various applications. The Committee has requested the plaint be rejected, citing the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991 as the reason why the lawsuit is unenforceable. It was not necessary to decide the plaint’s rejection application first just because the commission appointment application was submitted eight days ahead of the latter.

The Shahi Eidgah Mosque committee has refuted the plaintiffs’ claims, stating that they have not shown sufficient proof to back up their claim that the genuine Karagaar, the supposed birthplace of Lord Krishna, is located beneath the mosque. The committee dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand for a comprehensive survey as mere conjecture and questioned its validity. Furthermore, it claimed that the plaintiffs’ desire to have the mosque demolished while the lawsuit was pending was motivated by something else.

The mosque committee rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that certain architectural elements had Hindu origins and described their application as a clear attempt to persuade the court that Mughal architectural styles were Hindu religious symbols.

It further argued that the step for ascertaining the building’s factual position, as specified in the application, is meaningless unless the plaintiffs’ principal prayer—the annulment of the decisions from 1973 and 1974—is addressed.

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