Varanasi: In a pivotal judgment that marked the culmination of his career, Varanasi’s district and sessions judge, Dr. Ajaya Krishna Vishvesha, delivered a significant ruling allowing Hindu prayers in a cellar at the historic Gyanvapi Mosque. This verdict, rendered on Dr. Vishvesha’s last working day before retirement, has stirred discussions in the ongoing legal battle over the site.
Born in 1964 in Haridwar, Dr. Vishvesha, with a Bachelor’s degree in science and a Master’s in law, commenced his judicial service in 1990. He had previously served as a district and sessions judge in Bulandshahr and held various judicial posts across Uttar Pradesh.
The judgment permits members of a family of Hindu priests to conduct prayers in a cellar within the Gyanvapi complex, which had remained sealed for over three decades. The mosque, dating back to the 17th century, comprises four cellars, with the specific area approved for prayers referred to as ‘Vyas ji ka Tehkhana.’
The petitioner, Shailendra Pathak Vyas, representing a family with a longstanding tradition of idol worship in the cellar, argued that his family had practiced worship for generations until 1993. In that year, the premises, including the cellar, were sealed by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, citing law and order concerns following the Babri Masjid demolition.
During the legal proceedings, the Muslim side contested the petitioner’s claim, asserting a lack of evidence supporting prayers in the cellar and disputing the existence of any idols. Following the judgment, they have indicated their intention to challenge the district court’s decision in the Allahabad High Court.
The Gyanvapi cellar was unsealed post the verdict, with prayers held at 3 am. Jitendra Nath Vyas, a member of the petitioner’s family, reported that five priests from the Kashi Vishwanath temple, along with family members and top district officials, participated in the prayer ceremony. Heavy security measures were implemented around the mosque to prevent potential disturbances.
As the legal and religious implications of this verdict unfold, the Gyanvapi legal battle continues to be a focal point of debate and dispute in Varanasi.