Lucknow: A Varanasi district court Monday directed that all the seven suits related to the Adi Vishweshwar temple — a demolished ancient temple that stood near the present-day Kashi Vishwanath temple — pending in two different courts of the city be consolidated.
The court, which is already hearing an eighth related case — the Shringar Gauri matter — will now hear the combined case.
The Shringar Gauri matter — where Hindu petitioners have sought the right to pray all year round at a wall of the Gyanvapi mosque, which abuts the Kashi Vishwanath temple and stands where a Vishweshwar temple is said to have been demolished on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s orders — has been made the leading case.
The order was issued by the court of district judge Ajaya Krishna Vishvesha, who said the cases were of a similar nature and clubbing them would help avoid contradictory orders.
In December last year, an application was filed by four of the five original petitioners in the Shringar Gauri case, who sought that all the eight cases be transferred to the court of the district judge on the grounds that they were of a similar nature.
Judge Vishvesha was Monday hearing an objection filed against the transfer application by the fifth petitioner, who has parted ways with the others.
While six of the seven cases were pending in the court of civil judge (senior division), one was pending in a fast-track court. Their court numbers are 693/2021, 925/2022, 350/2021, 712/2022, 839/2021, 358/2021, 245/2021 and 840/2021. The lead case is civil Suit No. 693/2021.
“In all these cases, the subject matter and the points raised for determination are almost similar,” the judge said. “The reliefs sought by the applicants in all these cases are also similar in nature. It was also observed by this court in order dated 17 April 2023 that if all these cases remain pending in different courts, then there is possibility that contradictory orders may be passed in all these cases…” the court added.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sudhir Tripathi, who — along with advocates Vishnu Jain and Subhash Chaturvedi — is representing the four Shringar Gauri petitioners who sought the transfer, said the advocates for petitioners in two of the suits had objected to their application.
“Advocates for petitioners in civil suit number 925/2022 and 712/2021 objected to the transfer application on grounds that it was not filed by original applicants, but the court decided in our favour and directed that the suits be clubbed because they all pertain to one issue,” he said.
The first combined hearing of these cases will be held on 7 July.
The litigation surrounding the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi complex — which includes the 18th-century Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 17th-century mosque — largely centres on “settlement plot number 9130”, where devotees believe a Shiva ‘linga’ appeared [based on an episode recorded in the centuries-old Linga Purana].
Some of the petitioners say the plot includes the site where the Lord Adi Vishweshwar Jyotirlinga self-manifested.
The Gyanvapi mosque stands within 20-foot-high barricades, which incorporate a wall from an ancient temple on its west.
The courtyard of the current Vishwanath temple, built by Ahilyabai Holkar in 1780, has the Gyanvapi well or “koop” near the famous foot-high stone statue of the bull “nandi” gifted by the Rana of Nepal.
Also Read: Gyanvapi suit: Why Varanasi court ruled in favour of Hindu petitioners, found plea ‘maintainable’
The eight cases
Civil suit 693/2021
Filed in August 2021 by five women petitioners — Rakhi Singh, Sita Sahu, Manju Vyas, Lakshmi Singh and Rekha Pathak. It requests the court to declare that the petitioners are entitled to perform darshan, pooja and other rituals for the worship of Maa Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh, and Hanuman — and “other visible and invisible deities” — in the “old temple complex” situated at settlement plot number 9130.
It also seeks a permanent injunction restraining the defendants — state of UP, Varanasi district magistrate and police commissioner, Anjuman Intazamia Masjid Committee (Gyanvapi management), and the board of trustees of the Kashi Vishwanath temple — from imposing any restriction or creating any obstacle in performing the rituals.
Civil suit 245/2021
Filed on behalf of Lucknow residents Satyam Tripathi and Ashish Shukla and Varanasi resident Pawan Pathak. It seeks to declare that worshippers of Maa Shringar Gauri, Maa Ganga, Lord Ganesh, Hanuman, and Nandiji along with Lord Adi Vishweshwar, are entitled to darshan and pooja within the area of settlement plot number 9130. They want the entire “Avimukteshwar area” — area where an old Avimukteshwar temple stood, according to the petitioners — to be declared as belonging to Lord Adi Vishweshwar.
Civil suit 350/2021
Filed on behalf of Goddess Shringar Gauri, through “next friend (who represents someone in court when they themselves can’t)”. The next friend in this case is Lucknow-based advocate Ranjana Agnihotri, while the other petitioners include the Lord Adi Vishweshwar Asthan, the site of the deity, Lucknow-based Jan Udghosh Sewa Sansthan, and six others. The suit repeats most of the demands made in 245/2021.
Civil suit 358/2021
Filed on behalf of Maa Ganga through next friend Suresh Chavhanke, the controversial editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News, and Lucknow residents Umakant Gupta, Anand Sahu, Maneesh Nigam and Rupesh Mishra. Apart from the demands in the two cases above, it wants an injunction issued to the UP government and the board of trustees of the Kashi Vishwanath temple to restore darshan and performance of rituals related to Lord Adi Vishweshwar, and also the ritual of jalabhishek with fresh gangajal of the Jyotirlinga.
Civil suit 839/2021
Filed on behalf of Lord Adi Vishweshwar Jyotirlinga, the swayambhu (self-manifested) deity at Kashi, through next friend Shiv Prasad Pandey, Varanasi resident Santosh Kumar Singh and Sube Singh Yadav of Haryana’s Mahendragarh. It calls for the deity to be declared the owner of settlement plot number 9130, saying the “property was with the deity much before the Sat Yuga, beyond the memory of human beings”.
It claims the defendants — UP Sunni Waqf Board, Anjuman Intazamia Masjid Committee — and their workers & supporters have no right to enter or use the aforesaid land and property in any manner, or to interfere in regular pooja of the deity on the premises.
It also argues that the registration of the land done by the UP Sunni Waqf Board has no sanction of law.
Also Read: For TV news, Gyanvapi court hearing is already a ‘victory of Hindus’
Civil suit 840/2021
Filed on behalf of deity Nandiji maharaj seated within the precincts of the Adi Vishweshwar temple complex, through next friend Sitendra Choudhary, Vinod Yadav and Ravi Shankar Dwivedi of Varanasi, and Bihar resident Akhilesh Dubey.
The suit wants the court to declare that Nandiji has the right to darshan of the Lord Adi Vishweshwar Jyotirlinga, situated at plot 9130, and is entitled to be worshipped by devotees of Lord Shiva.
The suit also seeks an injunction directing defendants — UP Sunni Waqf Board, Anjuman Intazamia Masjid Committee — to remove the “super structure (mosque)” raised over the Adi Vishweshwar Jyotirlinga, after which the Kashi Vishwanath temple board of trustees should make arrangements for darshan and pooja by devotees and maintaining the law-and-order situation.
Civil Suit 925/2022
Filed by Kashi-based seer Swami Avimukteshwaranand and Prayagraj-based astrologer Ram Sajivan Shukla. The petition demands that a disputed structure found on the premises of the Gyanvapi mosque during a court-ordered survey in May last year — identified as ‘Shivling’ by the Hindu side — be provided protection as it was entitled to anna-jal (offerings to a deity) as part of Hindu tradition.
Advocate Chandra Shekhar Seth, who is representing Avimukteshwaranand, told ThePrint that in a May 2022 order directing the sealing of the structure, the court of civil judge (senior division) had termed it a ‘Shivling’.
“The court had not used any prefix or suffix like “so-called” for the Shivling and termed it as it is. Our contention was that, until and unless there is an adverse finding, that order would prevail over all orders and it is a Shivling,” he said. “And, as per Hindu law, the status of a devta (deity) is that of a minor and it needs to be protected and it should be provided with anna-jal, and all rituals should be performed.”
The defendants in the suit are the UP government, the Varanasi Police commissioner and Anjuman Intazamia Masjid Committee.
Civil suit 712/2021
Filed by Lord Adi Vishweshwar Virajman through next friend Kiran Singh, wife of Jitendra Vishen, who heads the Vishwa Vaidik Sanatan Sangh, an outfit that backed the main petition filed by the five women, but later fell out with four of them.
The other petitioners include Sthan Adi Visheshwar, the site of the deity, and Varanasi residents Vikas Shah and Vidyachandra.
Speaking to ThePrint, Vishen said the title suit seeks the declaration that the entire complex premises belongs to the deity, and that the structure “imposed over the sthan” — the mosque — be removed. It also wants the Muslim community to be prohibited from entering the space, he added.
The defendants in the case are the UP government, the Varanasi district magistrate and police commissioner, the board of trustees of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, and the Anjuman Intazamia Masjid committee. This was the case in the fast-track court.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
Also Read: ‘Need to examine carefully’: SC defers order to determine age of Gyanvapi mosque ‘Shivling’