[Shahi Idgah Dispute] Muslim Side Opposes Amicus, Allahabad HC Reserves Verdict on Maintainability Plea

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Adv Mahmood Pracha on behalf of Shahi Idgah contended that since the dispute is between the plaintiffs and the defendants, therefore, the court cannot appoint any person or lawyer as Amicus Curiae in the matter

The Allahabad High Court reserved its verdict on Thursday, June 6, 2024, on the plea filed by the Muslim side challenging the maintainability of lawsuits initiated by Hindus in the Shahi Idgah Mosque-Krishna Janmabhoomi dispute in Mathura.

Although the court had previously reserved its judgment in open court, Advocate Mehmood, representing the Shahi Idgah Masjid Committee, moved an application emphasizing the necessity of protecting his right to be heard. The court granted this request, allowing him another opportunity to present his arguments.

On Thursday, he presented a threefold argument.

His arguments focused on three main issues: the Muslim side's application under Order VII Rule 11 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), allegations of unruly behavior by the counsel representing the plaintiffs, and the lack of provisions for the court to appoint any person or lawyer as Amicus Curiae in the dispute between the plaintiffs and the defendants.

Justice Mayank Kumar Jain noted that arguments on the application under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC had been concluded by Mrs. Tasneem Ahmadi on behalf of the defendants, and thus the hearing on this application had already been completed.

Regarding the alleged unruly behavior of the plaintiffs' counsel during the hearing on May 30, 2024, the court acknowledged that since accusations were made against the plaintiffs' counsel, their perspectives must also be considered. The court decided to address this issue after delivering the order on the maintainability of the suit.

Lastly, concerning the appointment of an Amicus Curiae, Justice Jain mentioned that an application for the removal of the Amicus Curiae is still pending. This matter will be addressed following the court's decision on the maintainability of the suit Justice Jain ordered.

The bench of Justice Mayank Kumar Jain is seized with 18 suits related to the dispute, consolidating 15 of them to be heard together. The Muslim side filed an application under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC challenging the maintainability of these lawsuits that essentially claim that 13.37 acres of land at Mathura, including Shahi Idgah mosque area, belong to Krishna Janmbhoomi.

The bench extensively heard arguments from both sides on the plea over multiple hearings on different dates and reserved its judgment on May 31. However, on Adv Pracha's plea, court granted him one more opportunity to address the court.

Main arguments:

The main contention of the Hindu side is that the property in question is not a Waqf property and therefore the Waqf Act does not apply to it. It also argued that the suits are maintainable and the question of their non-maintainability can only be determined after the presentation of leading evidence.

Hindu side asserted that the property in question was a temple and “after taking forcible possession of the same Muslims started to offer Namaz but by this, the character of land could not be changed".

On the other hand, the Muslim side questioned the maintainability of the suits filed by the Hindu side in Mathura Courts contending that jurisdiction over the matter lies exclusively with the Wakf Tribunal, and that civil courts are not competent to adjudicate the case.

Regarding the title suit, the Muslim side claimed that it should not be entertained due to its conflict with the Waqf Act and the Places of Worship Act 1991.

These laws prohibit the conversion of places of worship and mandate the preservation of their religious character as of August 15, 1947, the Muslim side asserted.

The Dispute:

The suits before the court are related to 13.37 acre land at Katra, Keshav Dev. The main relief sought through the suits is a direction for removal of the mosque from the land in question.

A claim has been made by many devotees of Lord Krishna that the Shahi Idgah Mosque is built over the land belonging to the deity and the actual birthplace of Lord Krishna lies beneath it.

It has been alleged that the 13.37 acres of land, which also includes the mosque area, is the Krishna Janmbhoomi land, and, the illegal structure was raised by Muslims over it.

Counsel for the Mosque and Waqf Board: Mrs. Tasneem Ahmadi and Mr. Mahmood Pracha, Advocate (through Video Conferencing), Advocates Nasiruzzaman, Pranav Ojha, Hare Ram Tripathi, Afzal Ahmad, and Tanveer Ahmad

Counsel appearing for Hindu parties: Advocates Hari Shankar Jain, Vishnu Shanker Jain, Reena N Singh, Mahendra Pratap Singh, (through Video Conferencing), Ajay Kumar Singh, Hare Ram Tripathi, Prabhash Pandey, Vinay Sharma, Gaurav Kumar, Radhey Shyam Yadav, Saurabh Tiwari, Siddharth Srivastava, Ashish Kumar Srivastava, Ashvinee Kumar Srivastava, and Adv Ashutosh Pandey (in person)

Case Title: Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman At Katra Keshav Dev Khewat No. 255 And 7 Others v. U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board And 3 Others And Connected Matters