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Seal, Survey, Remove: The Petitions Filed Over Mathura's Shahi Idgah Mosque

A Mathura court on Thursday, 19 May, held that a suit filed for removal of the Shahi Idgah Masjid was maintainable.

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Law
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Seal, Survey, Remove: The Petitions Filed Over Mathura's Shahi Idgah Mosque
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As a deluge of Mandir-Masjid legal disputes washes over the country, and courts find themselves mulling over which land, which structure, which fragment of history belongs to which God, a Mathura court on Thursday, 19 May, held that a suit filed for removal of the Shahi Idgah Masjid was maintainable.

The Shahi Idgah Masjid has long been a contentious subject, with Hindu groups alleging that it was constructed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the seventeenth century after destroying part of a temple on the land where Hindu deity Krishna is believed to have been born.

And yet a compromise was arrived at in 1968 between Shree Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh and the management of the Shahi Masjid Idgah, which divided the disputed land and asked the two groups to stay away from each other’s sections.

A Decree, A Dismissal and A Restored Suit

According to a report in Scroll, this compromise was decreed by a court in 1974.

But not everyone was satisfied with the arrangement, and the tussle regained momentum over the years. Following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya (1992), a new rallying cry for Hindu right-wing groups noted that Kashi (Varanasi) and Mathura were still to be dealt with.

In 1993, a suit was filed against the Seva Sansthan alleging that it had acted against the purpose of the Janmabhoomi trust. But this was dismissed by a civil court, as well as the High Court, amid questions over maintainability.

Only a little after the Supreme Court's Ayodhya verdict, a civil suit by lawyer Ranjana Agnihotri (who claims to be the next friend of the deity) and a few devotees was filed in 2020.

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Alleging that the Seva Sansthan had no legal basis to enter into an agreement with the Mosque’s management committee, as it had no legal right over the land, the appellants sought the removal of the structure of the mosque, and claim over the site.

The local civil judge, however, dismissed the petition, citing the Places of Worship Act, 1991 as a bar on the case, and stating that there were no arguments for reconsideration of the legal position.

The Places of Worship Act (1991) bars conversion of any place of worship into anything different from the religious character of the place as it was on 15 August 1947 (with the exception of the Ayodhya dispute). This basically means that if a building was a temple on 15 August 1947, it cannot be turned into a mosque in the future and vice versa.

This same order from 2020, however, was overturned on the morning of Thursday, 19 May by district judge Rajeev Bharti who, as quoted by Bar and Bench, said:

"Right to sue of the plaintiff will stand restored. Case will be restored at its original number."

A Swarm of Pleas

Meanwhile, a perusal of media reports suggests at least nine other petitions have been filed in recent times at various courts in connection with this matter. And while The Quint has not been able to confirm the exact number of pleas, here's what we know about several of them.

On 12 May, the Allahabad High Court had directed the Mathura court to decide on two applications pending before it, within a period of four months. According to LiveLaw, the applications filed by Manish Yadav, the next friend of the petitioner Bhagwan Shri Krishna Virajman, had sought:

  • An order of temporary injunction to ban the entry of opposite parties (UP Sunni Central Waqf Board and others) at the disputed site

  • Clubbing and hearing of all the cases filed in connection with the Sri Krishna Janambhumi Dispute in the district court of Mathura

Pointing out that the petitioner's grievance is that his applications are not being decided by the trial court, the High Court had said in its order:

"The Civil Judge (Senior Division), Mathura is directed to decide the aforesaid applications expeditiously preferably within a period of four months from the date a certified copy of this order is produced before him and after giving an opportunity of hearing to the affected parties, in case there is no legal impediment in deciding the aforesaid applications."

On 13 May, according to LiveLaw, one Manish Yadav had also moved an application in the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division), Mathura, seeking the appointment of an advocate commissioner to carry out an inspection and get a video survey of the mosque conducted — quite like the one ordered by the Varanasi court in the Gyanvapi Mosque case.

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Further, on 17 May, an application was also filed by advocates Mahendra Pratap Singh (president of Sri Krishna Janmabhumi Mukti Nyas) and Rajendra Maheshwari, before a local court in Mathura with a prayer to seal the mosque complex. Their petition was thereby fixed for hearing by the Civil Judge Senior Division Court on 1 July.

Meanwhile, on Thursday (19 May), the National Treasurer of All India Hindu Mahasabha, Dinesh Kaushik moved an application before the Civil Judge Senior Division Mathura seeking permission to consecrate Laddu Gopal inside the Shahi Idgah mosque and to perform puja there.

(With inputs from Scroll, Bar and Bench, LiveLaw and The Wire.)

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