Supreme Court extends stay on Shahi Eidgah Mosque Survey in Mathura

The Supreme Court has announced an extension of its stay order, issued on January 16, which suspended the survey of the Shahi Eidgah mosque situated near the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura.

| Updated: 31 January, 2024 12:35 pm IST

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has announced an extension of its stay order, issued on January 16, which suspended the survey of the Shahi Eidgah mosque situated near the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura. Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta presided over the court, setting the new deadline until April and instructing all involved parties to present their arguments by the first half of April, marking the next hearing for that period.

The court also resolved to address a series of petitions challenging the High Court’s decision, which consolidated around 18 suits related to the Krishna Janmasthan-Shahi Eidgah land dispute from various civil courts in Mathura to the Supreme Court.

Responding to the Hindu side’s request for a survey, the Supreme Court, on January 16, labelled the plea as “very vague.” Emphasising the necessity for specificity in the application, the court expressed reservations about its broad nature. The stay order was initiated following the Allahabad High Court’s decision on December 14 to appoint an advocate-commissioner to oversee the mosque survey.

The high court’s decision to order the survey, prompted by claims from Hindu plaintiffs hinting at the mosque’s history as a Hindu temple, added a new layer to the ongoing dispute. Legal experts highlighted issues concerning the application’s lack of clarity and the interim order’s legality without ensuring the suit’s maintainability during the hearing.

Since July 2023, the Supreme Court has been overseeing the challenge to the Allahabad High Court’s May 26 order, which consolidated all suits filed by Hindu parties claiming rights over the mosque land. Citing financial constraints, the mosque committee requested the transfer of the suits from the distant Allahabad High Court to Delhi, a request motivated by proximity.

Unified in their demand to reclaim the 13.37-acre land where the mosque stands for the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust, the suits also aim to annul a 1968 compromise between the mosque committee and Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh. The compromise allowed the mosque to remain in its current location, adjacent to the temple.

In its petition to the Supreme Court, the mosque raised concerns about the suits’ maintainability due to prolonged delays. It also invoked the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, safeguarding the “character” of places of worship as of August 15, 1947, and prohibiting lawsuits altering their character.

Several petitions, both challenging and supporting this act, have been pending before the Supreme Court since March 2021. Last September, Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, during the Gyanvapi case, underscored the need for evidence in determining the religious “character” of a site.

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