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Supreme Court Extends Stay On Allahabad High Court's Order For Mathura Shahi Eidgah Survey

The Supreme Court has prolonged the interim stay on the Allahabad High Court's directive for a court-monitored survey of the Shahi Idgah Mosque in Mathura, scheduling further hearings in April and directing parties to complete pleadings by then.

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Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura Photographs: Suresh K. Pandey
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The Supreme Court has extended the interim stay on the Allahabad High Court's order for a court-monitored survey of the Shahi Idgah Mosque complex near the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura. Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, handling the plea by the Committee of Management Trust Shahi Masjid Idgah, scheduled further hearings for the first half of April. The court directed parties to complete pleadings by then, maintaining that interim orders will persist. All related petitions before the Supreme Court will be heard together in April.

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The Supreme Court had earlier halted the operation of the December 14, 2023, order of the Allahabad High Court, which permitted a court-monitored survey of the mosque complex. It also stayed the appointment of a court commissioner to oversee the survey, as the Hindu side contends the mosque premises show signs of being a former temple. The apex court clarified that proceedings before the high court, including the dispute's maintainability under Civil Procedure Code (CPC) Order 7 Rule 11, will continue.

The Supreme Court raised concerns about legal issues and the vague application for appointing a court commissioner for the survey. It issued notice to Hindu bodies, seeking their response to the Mosque committee's plea. The committee argued that the high court should have considered its petition challenging the suit's maintainability before deciding on related applications.

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The committee's plea asserts that the lawsuit is barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which prohibits altering the character of religious places after August 15, 1947, except for the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The high court, while allowing the survey, emphasized that no harm should be caused to the Mathura structure during the exercise, overseen by a three-member commission of advocates.

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court is handling another petition by the mosque committee challenging the high court's May 26, 2023, order transferring all matters related to the dispute to itself from a Mathura court. In Mathura, a suit was filed for relocating the Shahi Idgah mosque, with the Hindu side claiming it was built on a portion of the 13.37-acre land of the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust. The Hindu side urged the high court to conduct the original trial, similar to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute.

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