Even as the Gyanvapi Masjid-Kashi Vishwanath Mandir dispute rages, an equally old demand of Hindus about Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, has taken a legal recourse. The Krishna Janmabhoomi demand involves ownership of 13.37 acres of land. On 19 May, a Mathura court allowed the lawsuit demanding the removal of the Shahi Idgah mosque near Krishna Janmabhoomi or the birthplace of SriKrishna, essentially paving way for hearings to take place in court against the mosque, saying that the Places of Worship Act, 1991, would not apply in the case of Mathura.
The judgment relates to the first suit in the case, which a Lucknow resident and advocate Ranjana Agnihotri as the “next friend” of child deity SriKrishna Virajman of the Katra Keshav Dev temple and six others had filed. In one of the several pleas filed before the court, the petitioners had requested the court to demolish the Idgah built on the trust’s land declaring it illegal and hand over the entire land to the de-facto owner, Lord Shri Krishna Virajman.
The petitioners say that the 13.37 acres of land belongs to the deity SriKrishna Virajman. We at Sirf News have shared the history of repeated demolition of the Hindu temple on the site on several occasions.
The petitioners have sought excavation of the disputed site under the supervision of the court, saying that an inquiry report of the excavation should be submitted.
Senior advocate from Mathura Gopal Khandelwal, who is representing the case from Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman, said that the court has accepted their revision petition and stated, “We have a right to file suit and the Places of Worship Act is not applicable in this matter. We have right to challenge the compromise of 1968 between Janambhoomi trust and shahi Idgah and suit is filed within limitation.” He added if required the property will be surveyed and videography will be done.
In 2021, advocate Ranjana Agnihotri along with six others had first filed a claim in the case in the court of a civil judge. Agnihotri, a resident of Lucknow filed the lawsuit, as the “next friend of the infant Lord Krishna” of the Katra Keshav Dev temple.
However, the civil judge dismissed the plea, holding that it was not maintainable since none of the petitioners was from Mathura who could have a valid stake in the issue. Various organisations including the Akhil Bharatiya Tirth Purohit Mahasabha, Mathur Chaturvedi Parishad and Hindu Mahasabha wanted to become a party in the case filed for the removal of Shahi Idgah Mosque.
Yet another contention is the 1968 settlement between the Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh, the temple management authority, and Shahi Idgah Masjid Trust as part of which the temple authority had conceded the portion of land to the Idgah.
The petitioners have alleged that the settlement had no legal validity because the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust, having ownership and title of the place, was not a party to it. Thus, the court should order the transfer of the land on which the mosque was built to the deity, the petitioners have said.
Apart from looking into the revenue records, the court will have to also decide the validity of the 1968 agreement.
Places of Worship Act reasoning in court
A civil court in Mathura had on 30 September 2020 refused to admit the suit and rejected the plaint under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC on the ground that the Plaintiffs, being the devotees/worshippers of SriKrishna, have no right to file the suit. When that order was challenged in revision by the petitioners, the District & Sessions Judge Mathura, Rajeev Bharti, yesterday allowed their plea and directed the trial court to hear both the parties and to pass appropriate order.
The court observed that the provisions of the Places of Worship Act would have no application in this dispute. The Court, while accepting the revision plea, said that since the agreement and the subsequent compromise decree had been challenged by the plaintiff, the Place of Worship Act will not apply in this case by virtue of Section 4 (3)(b) of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.
The court reasoned that the agreement resulted in a compromise decree, which was drawn before the commencement of the Places of Worship Act and since the same is the subject matter of challenge in the suit moved by the petitioner, by virtue of Section 4 (3)(b) of 1991 Act, the act shall not be applicable to the dispute.
The court opined that the Places of Worship Act did not debar those cases where the declaration is sought for a period prior to the coming into force in 1991 or for enforcement of right which was recognized before coming into force of the law.
Places of Worship Act not helping Muslims
The Places of Worship Act prohibits conversion of any place of worship and provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on 15 August 1947. The law, however, exempted litigation on the ownership over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
While Muslims are trying to avoid history by invoking the Places of Worship Act, it is not helping their cause in restricting Hindus from regaining everyday access to the Sakshi Gauri deity on a side of the Gyanvapi Mosque because Hindus were worshipping this deity on 15 August 1947 as well as up to 1992, thus violating the status quo of neither the day of the Indian independence nor of the time when a panicked PV Narasimha Rao had made the law, torn between the Ram Janmabhoomi activists’ increasing popularity and ‘secular’ political parties’ pressure.
The Mathura case is, however, different. Hindus want access to the whole place where Muslim invaders built the Shahi Idgah mosque deliberately to tease Hindus in the mediaeval period. It will be interesting to see if the Places of Worship Act applies to Krishna Janmabhoomi.