HC Judge Recuses From Hearing Plea Against Varanasi Court’s Order on ‘Wazukhana’ Survey

Allahabad High Court judge Justice Manish Kumar Nigam on Wednesday recused himself from hearing a plea challenging the Varanasi district court’s refusal to direct the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to undertake a survey of the ‘wazukhana’ area except the ‘Shivling’ inside the Gyanvapi mosque complex.

The court said the matter be placed before the court of chief justice for nomination of another judge and fixed January 31 as the next date of hearing.

The revision petition was filed by Rakhi Singh, who is one of the plaintiffs in the Shringar Gauri worshipping suit which is presently pending before the Varanasi district court.

In her application before the Varanasi court, which was rejected on October 21, 2023, the primary contention raised by Singh was that the survey of the wazukhana, excluding the ‘Shivling’ is necessary to ascertain the religious character of the property in question.

However, while rejecting her application, the district judge had observed in his order that the apex court on May 17, 2022 had ordered to duly protect the area where the ‘Shivling’ is stated to have been found and therefore, it is not proper to direct the ASI to survey the area as it would violate the order.

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The Varanasi district court had on July 21 last year directed the ASI to conduct a “detailed scientific survey” — including excavations, wherever necessary — to determine if the mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple was built upon a temple.

The mosque’s “wazukhana” (a small reservoir where devotees perform ritual ablutions), where a structure claimed by the Hindu litigants to be a ‘Shivling’ exists, will not be part of the survey, following an earlier Supreme Court order protecting that spot in the mosque complex.

Hindu activists claim that a temple existed earlier at the site and was demolished in the 17th century on the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

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