Shahi Idgah and Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple Dispute | 30 Dec 2023

For Prelims: Shahi Idgah, Krishna Janmabhoomi temple, Keshava Deva temple, Aurangzeb, Dara Shukoh, Raja of Benaras, Babri Masjid judgment

For Mains: Significance of judiciary in redressal of disputes related to places of worship.

Source: TH

Why in News?

The Allahabad High Court recently ruled that a survey will be conducted for the Shahi Idgah, a three-domed mosque in Mathura.

  • It is seeking appointment of a court commission to inspect the Shahi Idgah mosque that stands adjacent to the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple in Mathura.

What is the History of the Disputed Land?

  • Raja Veer Singh Bundela of Orchha had also built a temple on the same premises in 1618 and the mosque was built by Aurangzeb in 1670 on the site of an earlier temple.
  • The Krishna Janmasthan temple in Mathura is believed to have been built around 2,000 years ago, in the 1st century CE.
  • A survey has been ordered due to demands by Hindu representatives for complete ownership of the premises where the Keshava Deva temple was destroyed on the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1670.
    • The area was regarded as nazul land — non-agricultural state land owned by the Marathas, and then the British.
  • The temple was originally built in 1618 during the reign of Jahangir and was patronized by Aurangzeb’s brother and rival, Dara Shukoh.
  • In 1815, the Raja of Benaras purchased the 13.77-acre land from the East India Company.
  • Later, the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust was established.
    • The trust acquired ownership rights over the temple, and in 1951.
    • The 13.77-acre land was placed under the trust with the condition that it would never be sold or pledged.
    • In 1956, the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Sewa Sangh was set up to manage the affairs of the temple.
    • In 1968, an agreement was signed between the Sri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh and the Shahi Idgah Masjid Trust, where the temple authority conceded a portion of the land to the Idgah as part of the settlement.
    • The current dispute involves temple petitioners seeking possession of the entire parcel of land.

What is the Present Status of the Issue?

  • The plea for a survey was filed on behalf of the Hindu deity, Shri Krishna and seven others, who in their original suit pending before court claimed that the mosque was built over the birthplace of Shri Krishna on the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1670.
    • Since the Babri Masjid judgment in 2019, nine cases related to the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi and Shahi Idgah Masjid, have been filed in the Mathura court.
  • The Allahabad High Court transferred to itself all the suits pending before the Mathura Court on various reliefs pertaining to the Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah Mosque dispute.
  • In the High Court, the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Shahi Idgah Masjid Committee argued that the birthplace of Lord Krishna is not under the Mosque.
    • They stated that the plaintiffs' claim lacks evidence and is based on speculation.
  • When the Committee of Management Trust of the Shahi Idgah Masjid sought a stay on the survey from the Supreme Court, the court did not grant any relief.

What is the Places of Worship Act,1991?

  • About:
    • It was enacted to freeze the status of religious places of worship as they existed on August 15, 1947, and prohibits the conversion of any place of worship and ensures the maintenance of their religious character.
  • Major Provisions of the Act:
    • Prohibition of Conversion (Section 3):
      • Prevents the conversion of a place of worship, whether in full or part, from one religious denomination to another or within the same denomination.
    • Maintenance of Religious Character (Section 4(1)):
      • Ensures that the religious identity of a place of worship remains the same as it was on August 15, 1947.
      • The Allahabad High Court's recent stance in the Gyanvapi case suggests that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 does not clarify “religious character of any place of worship” and can only be determined in a trial, based on documentary and oral evidence, on a case-to-case basis.
    • Abatement of Pending Cases (Section 4(2)):
      • Declares that any ongoing legal proceedings concerning the conversion of a place of worship's religious character before August 15, 1947, will be terminated, and no new cases can be initiated.
    • Exceptions to the Act (Section 5):
      • The Act does not apply to ancient and historical monuments, archaeological sites, and remains covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
      • It also excludes cases that have already been settled or resolved and disputes that have been resolved by mutual agreement or conversions that occurred before the Act came into effect.
      • The Act does not extend to the specific place of worship known as Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, including any legal proceedings associated with it.
    • Penalties (Section 6):
      • Specifies penalties, including a maximum imprisonment term of three years and fines, for violating the Act.