From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991
Mains level : Paper 2- Lower judiciary
The Supreme Court order of May 20, transferring the suit on the Gyanvapi Masjid dispute from the civil judge (senior division) Varanasi to the district judge casts aspersion, though unintended, on the competence of civil judges in general.
- The matter had reached the Supreme Court on a petition filed by the Mosque Management Committee, which challenged the civil judge’s orders.
- The order permitted inspection, survey, and videography of the mosque’s complex to collect evidence about the alleged existence of idols of Hindu deities inside the mosque, which is adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
- The Mosque Management Committee had filed an application before the civil judge seeking the rejection of the plaint on the ground that it was barred by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
- Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 prohibits individuals and groups of people from converting, in full or in part, a place of worship of any religious denomination into a place of worship of a different religious denomination, or even a different segment of the same religious denomination.
- It was argued before the SC that given the said Act, the suit was liable to be rejected at the threshold as the civil judge had no jurisdiction to entertain the same, much less to pass the aforesaid interim orders.
- The SC has not found any fault with the order of the civil judge, though there is also a view that it was mandatory on the part of the civil judge to have first passed an order on whether he had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
- However, it appears that in the SC’s view, this was not a serious infraction.
- So, in a way, the SC has affirmed the orders of the civil judge.
- The civil court had territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction to deal with the matter.
- The question that arises is: Why has the Supreme Court transferred the matter to the court of the district judge?
Issues with the SC transferring the case to the district judge
- The SC has seemingly declared civil judges to be not competent to decide a matter alleged to be complex.
- When the Civil Procedure Code, the High Court Rules and Orders invest a civil judge with jurisdiction, why take it away merely on the plea that the matter is complex?
- Unhealthy precedent: Fransfer of the case to the district judge has set an unhealthy precedent and will have a demoralising effect on the subordinate judiciary.
- In the recent past, many lower-level judicial officers have passed outstanding orders in matters concerning the liberties of the citizens, which are under threat as never before.
- The subordinate judiciary provides the foundation of our judicial system.
Supreme Court order inadvertently casts aspersions on competence of subordinate judiciary. District court should not be weighed down by SC observation.