The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to list on July 21 a fresh plea seeking permission to worship a shivling that Hindu petitioners claim was found in the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi during a survey, Live Law reported.

The survey report had stated that an oval object had been found inside a tank at the mosque. Hindu petitioners claimed the object is a shivling, a symbolic representation of Hindu deity Shiva. Muslims, however, say that it is actually a fountain.

The new plea has also sought directions to the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct carbon dating of the oval object to ascertain its actual age.

Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, representing the petitioner, mentioned the matter before a bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli.

Jain told the judges that a petition filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, the caretakers of the mosque, challenging the Varanasi court’s order to conduct a survey of the mosque is also listed on July 21.

The mosque committee’s plea is listed before a bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and PS Narasimha.

Jain requested the Ramana-led bench to list both the matters together on the same day, Live Law reported. The chief justice took note of Jain’s submissions and agreed to list his plea with the mosque committee’s petition.

The case

The Gyanvapi case pertains to a petition filed by five Hindu women who have claimed that an image of the Hindu deity Shringar Gauri exists at the mosque and have sought permission to offer daily prayers there.

The Gyanvapi mosque is located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi.

In May, a Varanasi trial court had ordered a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque despite the Muslim committee’s objection to it. The mosque committee then moved the Supreme Court challenging the trial court’s order to conduct the survey.

On May 16, the trial court directed district officials to seal the wazu khana, or ablution tank, in the mosque. The court had passed the order even before receiving the report of the survey.

A day later, the Supreme Court directed officials to protect the spot where the said shivling was found. It also said that Muslims should not be restricted from offering prayers at the mosque.

On May 20, the Supreme Court ordered to transfer the proceedings from the trial court to the court of the district judge in Varanasi. The Supreme Court said that the civil suit case was sensitive and should be heard by a senior and experienced judicial officer.

The case is still being heard at the Varanasi district court.

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From Babri to Gyanvapi, how India’s courts have helped escalate Hindutva claims on mosques