The Varanasi court that has formed a commission to survey and videograph the Gyanvapi mosque removed on Tuesday the panel’s chief for “performing his duty in an extremely irresponsible manner”.
Ajay Kumar Mishra, the now-sacked advocate-commissioner, had hired a cameraman in his personal capacity, and this person gave unauthorised bites to the media, civil judge (senior division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar noted.
The cameraman, R.P. Singh, had started off the claim that a “Shivalinga” had been found inside a tank on the mosque premises. The mosque’s management committee has said the structure is a defunct fountain.
Judge Diwakar, while removing Mishra, directed special advocate-commissioner Vishal Singh to prepare and present the survey report on Thursday with the help of assistant advocate-commissioner Ajay Pratap Singh.
The judge did not refer to the appeal by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, the management committee of the Gyanvapi mosque, against Mishra. The committee had accused Mishra of being biased and alleged that he had been fiddling with his fingers at places on the mosque’s wall.
The judge had earlier appointed the special and assistant advocate-commissioners based on the complaint.
The civil court said in its order in Hindi on Tuesday: “When an advocate is appointed as advocate-commissioner, his position in that case is like a public servant and he is expected to do the job of the commission with complete impartiality and honesty. He will not give any irresponsible statements in public. But Ajay Kumar Mishra, advocate-commissioner, has performed his duty in an extremely irresponsible manner. Special advocate-commissioner Vishal Singh has submitted an application to clarify the situation.
“It has become clear after the analysis of the above (Vishal Singh’s application) that advocate-commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra hired a private cameraman, who was regularly giving bites to the media, which is against the judicial norms…. Advocate-commissioner Ajay Kumar Mishra is relieved of his duties or removed with immediate effect.”
Vishal Singh had informed the court that Mishra had hired R.P. Singh, the private cameraperson who had been giving “wrong information to the media about the findings of the survey”.
R.P. Singh had been accompanying the survey team, which includes camerapersons from the government’s information department.
R.P. Singh had claimed on Sunday, a day before the survey of the wuzukhana (the tank used for ablutions inside which the structure was found) that there was a Shivalinga there. On Monday, hours after a round of survey, Hari Shankar Jain, a lawyer for the Hindu side, approached Judge Diwakar with the claim that the structure was a Shivalinga and obtained an order to cordon off the circular area inside which it was found.
On Sunday, after objections had been raised to the presence of R.P. Singh among the surveyors, he had been told to leave but Mishra had allegedly called him back after 15 minutes.
After his removal on Tuesday, Mishra said he was innocent and alleged that R.P. Singh had hoodwinked him (“dhonka diya”). “The photographer hoodwinked me and I was removed on the complaint of Vishal Singh. I was satisfied with the survey,” Mishra said.
Vishal Singh, the special advocate-commissioner, told reporters before the court asked him to take charge of the survey: “We had not completed the report because of certain reasons and needed more time. We also have to make maps of the entire area while preparing the complete report as per the direction of the court.”
“Here, I want to make it clear that the fish (reared in the area between the circular wall of the structure and a larger triangle-shaped tank) are safe as water has been drained out of only the circular structure in the presence of a fisheries officer. It is this circular area that has been cordoned off after Monday’s order of the court,” added Vishal Singh, refusing to comment on whether the structure was a fountain or a Shivalinga.
Ajay Pratap Singh, the assistant advocate-commissioner, said before the court order: “We conducted the survey on Saturday and Sunday from 8am to noon and on Monday from 8am to 10.30am. We are in a position to submit the entire report in two days.”
Sudhir Tripathi, counsel for Manju Vyas, one of the five women petitioners who had sought permission to pray daily at the “Shringar Gauri” on the mosque premises, moved a fresh application in the civil court on Tuesday to allow the survey commission to break a brick wall, which had been built to seal a room to the east of the tank, and conduct a survey there.
“I moved the court because I believe there was a temple before the mosque was built,” Vyas said.
The court has issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh government and the Intezamia to file their replies in connection with the “Shivalinga” claim and Vyas’s appeal. The cases will be heard on Wednesday.