A Supreme Court bench comprising three judges, hearing a petition filed by the Karnataka Waqf Board that challenged the Karnataka High Court's order granting permission for Ganesh Chaturthi festivities at the Bengaluru Idgah Maidan, ordered that the status quo be maintained by both sides.
"Interim status quo for two days. You have the pooja somewhere else. And go back to the high court," Justice Indira Banerjee said after the hearing on Tuesday, 30 August.
"Issues raised in the special leave petition may be agitated by both parties before the high court. In the meanwhile, the status quo as of today be maintained by both sides. The SLP is disposed of," the bench was quoted as saying by LiveLaw.
"For 200 years it was not done, you also admit, so why not status quo, for 200 years whatever was not held, let it be."Supreme Court
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for the Waqf Board informed the court that in 200 years, no other community has been allowed to perform rituals on the ground. On the other hand, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that for the past 200 years, the land was used as a playground for children and that all its revenue entries were in the name of the state.
The matter had been referred to the three-judge bench of Justices Indira Banerjee, Abhay S Oka, and MM Sundresh after a difference of opinion in the two-judge bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia earlier in the day.
Further, the police "will ensure that the status quo is maintained," Bengaluru Police Commissioner CH Pratap Reddy told news agency ANI.
"We've deployed an adequate police force. SC judgment will be binding on all of us including the police. We will ensure that the status quo is maintained," he said.
The Waqf Board had moved the Supreme Court against the installation of a Ganesh idol at the Idgah Maidan.
The Karnataka HC's Order
The Karnataka High Court had permitted the state government to consider and pass appropriate orders on applications received by the deputy commissioner seeking the use of the land in question.
This came a day after the court, on 25 August, declared that the land could only be used as a playground and for Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations. It also said that Muslims could offer prayers on Eid on the premises.
The revision came after the government told the court that Bengaluru's deputy commissioner had received five applications to use the maidan for religious and cultural activities.
The division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty noted on 26 August:
"We therefore, at this stage, in the peculiar facts of the case, modify the interim order dated 25.08.2022 and permit the State Government to consider and pass appropriate orders on applications received by the Deputy Commissioner seeking use of the land in question for holding religious and cultural activities for a limited period from 31.08.2022 onwards."
The state government filed an appeal challenging the interim order passed on 25 August in the matter.
Ever since the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) ruled that the maidan belonged to the state and not the Waqf Board, which was granted congregational rights for the land in 1965, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been under pressure from several Hindutva groups to install a Ganesh idol on the premises spanning 2.5 acres.