supreme-court-orders-to-secure-shivling-area-in-gyanvapi-mosque

Context-

The apex court directed the District Magistrate of Varanasi to protect the area inside Gyanvapi Mosque premises, where a Shivling is reportedly found.

Highlights-

  • The court also ordered that Muslims not be restricted from accessing the Gyanvapi mosque to offer their daily namaz or perform any religious practices.
  • Justice Chandrachud clearly mentioned, “We are not disturbing anything but holding everything in balance”.
  • To avoid any other dispute, Supreme Court restricted the trial court order to seal a portion of the mosque premises.
  • As per the petitioners, a Shivling had been found near the wazu khana (place of ablution) during the inspection of the mosque premises by a Court Commission. Accordingly they wanted the court to direct the security forces to seal the wazu khana and stop its use immediately. The mosque’s caretakers, questioned how namaz could be performed without cleansing oneself at the wazu khana as it is a vital practice for their religion.
  • The opposition party argued that the trial judge judgement violates Section 3 and 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, which mandated that “you cannot tinker with any place of worship which has been existing and where worship has been performed as on August 15, 1947. 
  • Even the Supreme Court in its own ruling in the Ayodhya judgment said that a mere claim of “historical wrong” cannot be the basis for changing the nature of a place of worship
  • Even, Allahabad High Court in the past dismissed a similar petition seeking an Archaeological Survey of India survey at the mosque premises, supposedly to find the remains of a pre­existing temple

Constitutional provisions regarding Freedom of Religion

Article 25-28 under Part III of the Indian Constitution, provides Freedom of Religion, which gives every citizen the right to follow the religion he/she believes in.

Article 25

Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion

(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law

  • (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;
  • (b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.

Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion 

Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.

Article 26

Freedom to manage religious affairs Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right

(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;

(b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;

(c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and

(d) to administer such property in accordance with law.

Article 27

Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religions denomination.

Article 28

Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions

(1) No religion instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds

(2) Nothing in clause ( 1 ) shall apply to an educational institution which is administered by the State but has been established under any endowment or trust which requires that religious instruction shall be imparted in such institution

(3) No person attending any educational institution recognized by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto Cultural and Educational Rights.