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Prayagraj, Dec 20 – The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday dismissed all the five petitions of the Muslim side challenging the maintainability of an original suit and opposing the survey of the dispute site in Varanasi by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The order was passed by the single bench of Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal. While three petitions were filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee of Varanasi, two were submitted by the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board.

On behalf of the Muslim side it was argued that the original petition of 1991 seeking permission for worship inside the Gyanvapi complex was barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. The original petition was filed by the Ancient Idol Of Swayambhu Lord Vishweshwar and five others.

While dismissing the petitions, the judge said, “I come to the conclusion that the present suit filed by plaintiffs being Suit No.610 of 1991 is not barred by provisions of Section 4 of Act of 1991 and the plaint cannot be rejected under Order 7 Rule 11 Code of Civil Procedure (CPC).

It said that the Act does not define ‘religious character’ and only ‘conversion’ and ‘place of worship’ have been defined under the Act. “What will be the religious character of the disputed place can only be arrived at by the competent court after the evidence is led by the parties to the suit. It is a disputed question of fact, as only part and partial relief has been claimed of the entire Gyanvapi compound which comprises settlement plot numbers 9130, 9131 and 9132,” it said.

The bench said, “Either the Gyanvapi compound has a Hindu religious character or a Muslim religious character. It can’t have dual characters at the same time. The religious character has to be ascertained by the court considering pleadings of the parties and evidence led in support of pleadings. No conclusion can be reached on the basis of framing of the preliminary issue of law.”

It stated that the Act only bars conversion of place of worship, but it does not define or lay down any procedure for determining the religious character of place of worship that existed on August 15, 947.

“More than 32 years have elapsed since filing of original suit number 610 of 1991 and only issues have been framed after filing of written statement by defendants. Proceedings of the suit had remained pending for almost 25 years on the strength of an interim order granted by this court on October 13, 1998,” it said.

The court observed that the dispute raised in the suit is of vital national importance. “It is not a suit between the two individual parties. It affects two major communities of the country. Due to the interim order operating since 1998, the suit could not proceed.

“In the national interest, it is required that the suit must proceed expeditiously and be decided with utmost urgency with the cooperation of both the contesting parties without resorting to any dilatory tactics,” it said.

The bench observed, “In view of the fact that the suit is of the year 1991 and more than 32 years have elapsed, this court directs the trial court to proceed with the matter expeditiously and conclude the proceedings of Original Suit No.610 of 1991 preferably within a period of next six months from the date of production of a certified copy of this order. It is made clear that the court below shall not grant unnecessary adjournment to either of the parties. In case adjournment is granted, it will be at heavy cost.”

The judge said, “This court finds that case numbers 3341 of 2017 and 234 of 2021 filed by defendant number 1 (Anjuman Intezamia Masajid) and 2 (UP Sunni Central Boards of Waqfs) are for the same relief, which this court finds cannot be granted to them at this stage and both the matters fails and are hereby dismissed and interim orders stands vacated.”

It said that further, identical controversy has been raised through case numbers 3562 of 2021 and 3844 of 2021. “As the scientific survey is already being conducted by ASI in original suit number 18 of 2022, it is hereby directed that ASI shall submit the same report in suit number 610 of 1991 and in case it is found that further survey is required, which have been left out in the survey conducted by ASI, the court below shall issue necessary directions to carry out further survey in view of order dated April 8, 2021,” it said.

It said that both the cases number 3562 of 2021 and 3844 of 2021 filed under Article 227 fail and are hereby dismissed. “Thus, all the five matters under Article 227 warrant no interference by this court and stand dismissed. Interim order, if any, stands vacated,” it said.