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Gyanvapi case: ASI survey underway at mosque complex after Allahabad High Court nod | DETAILS

Gyanvapi mosque survey: The high court ordered ASI director to conduct a detailed scientific investigation by using Ground Penetrating Radar survey, excavation, dating method and other modern techniques of the Gyanvapi mosque to find out the truth.

Edited By: Sheenu Sharma Varanasi Updated on: August 04, 2023 10:16 IST
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Image Source : PTI Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi

Gyanvapi mosque survey: Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began the survey at Gyanvapi mosque complex today (August 4). The Allahabad High Court on Thursday (August 3) gave the go-ahead for a scientific survey at the Gyanvapi mosque, dismissing a Muslim body's petition that had challenged a lower court order asking the ASI to conduct the survey to determine if the 17th-century structure was built upon a temple.

ASI started working on a scientific survey of Gyanvapi mosque premises in Varanasi to determine whether 17th-century structure was constructed over pre-existing structure of Hindu temple.

Sudhir Tripathi, advocate representing the Hindu side says, "ASI can only tell how many days it will take to complete the survey. It took 7-8 months to complete the survey of the Ram temple in Ayodhya."

A single-judge bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker said the Varanasi district court order for a survey on the disputed premises is just and proper, and no interference from this court is warranted. There is no reason to not believe the ASI's assurance that the survey won't cause any damage to the structure, the bench said and directed that no digging should be done on the mosque's premises.

Who filed the petition?

The petition was filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee that manages the Gyanvapi mosque. The district court had on July 21 directed ASI to conduct a detailed scientific survey- including excavations, wherever necessary- to determine if the Gyanvapi mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple is built upon a temple.

Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, who represented the Hindu side in the case, said the high court stated that the district court's order on the ASI's survey will be effective immediately.

Varanasi District Magistrate S Rajalingam said the ASI has sought assistance from the local administration to start the survey from Friday. A detailed talk has been held with the Varanasi police commissioner on security during the survey and the district administration is fully prepared to start the survey work from Friday, the official said.

During the hearing, the chief justice said, "I find no substance in the argument that without digging any wall, things cannot be finalised by the ASI." "In this advanced stage of time, many new things have been developed and now with the help of new technology and able guidance of responsible officers of the ASI, the scientific investigation can be made. The officer present in the court together with the learned Additional Solicitor General of India has made submission in the form of an affidavit that no excavation whatsoever will take place," he said.

The bench said further, there is "no substance in the argument made by the applicant/defendant no. 4 (Muslim side) that the applications filed by the plaintiffs, seeking scientific investigation of the structure in question are not tenable in the eyes of law just because the issues have not been framed as yet".

"The scientific investigation has nothing to do with the other evidence and whatever evidence would be collected, that may be for all the parties and not only for the plaintiffs," it said.

In its 16-page order, the high court said, "In the opinion of the court, the scientific survey/investigation proposed is necessary in the interest of justice and shall benefit the plaintiffs and defendants alike and come in aid of the trial court to arrive at a just decision."   

"Interim order, if any, stands vacated. The order dated July 21, 2023, passed by the district judge, Varanasi, is restored and the parties are to comply with the said order, subject to the observations made by this court here and the contents of the affidavit filed on behalf of the ASI before this court," the bench said.

It observed that as the proceeding of the suit has been lingering on for long, "it would be appropriate to observe that the court concerned shall make all endeavours to conclude the proceedings expeditiously, without granting unnecessary adjournments to either of the parties by giving short dates".

The high court ordered the ASI director to conduct a detailed scientific investigation by using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey, excavation, dating method and other modern techniques of the Gyanvapi mosque to find out as to whether the same has been constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple.

The director of the ASI is also directed to conduct the GPR survey just below the three domes of the building in question and conduct excavation, if required, it said. 

Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee moved Supreme Court:

Shortly after the high court order, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee moved the Supreme Court against it. The committee had moved the high court on July 25, a day after the Supreme Court halted the ASI survey till 5 pm on July 26, allowing time for the committee to appeal against the lower court's order.

Chief Justice Diwaker had reserved the order on the mosque committee's petition on July 27 after hearing arguments from both sides. The court had also stayed the ASI survey till Thursday.

During the hearing, senior advocate SFA Naqvi, appearing for the mosque committee, had said, "We have attached photographs of various digging equipment that the ASI (team) was carrying when it reached the mosque premises. It shows that they had intentions of digging the spot."

To this, Chief Justice Diwaker had said that though they were carrying equipment, it doesn't show they had an intention to dig. Later, ASI Additional Director Alok Tripathi had clarified that they carried some equipment for removing debris at the site and not for digging.

The Hindu side's advocate told reporters that the high court said, "This is a very important decision by the high court. The argument by the Anjuman Intezamia that the survey will affect the structure (of the mosque) has been rejected by the court, which has dismissed its petition."

The mosque committee had earlier argued that it did not get a chance to approach the high court, Jain said. Therefore, the high court heard all its arguments before arriving at the decision that the district court order will be implemented with immediate effect, he said.

Earlier, the counsel for the mosque committee had submitted that the matter regarding maintainability of the suit was pending before the Supreme Court and if the top court later comes to the conclusion that it is not maintainable, then the entire exercise would be futile. Thus, the survey should be conducted after the Supreme Court's decision on the maintainability of the suit, the counsel had said.

Jain argued that the court had ordered the ASI survey to come to a logical conclusion. Madan Mohan Yadav, who also represented the Hindu side, said if the other side decides to approach the Supreme Court, they will file a caveat stating that they should also be heard on the matter. The mosque 'wazu khana', where a structure claimed by Hindu litigants to be a 'shivling' exists, will not be part of the survey- following an earlier Supreme Court order protecting that spot in the complex.

Hindu activists claim that a temple existed earlier at the site and was demolished in the 17th century on the order of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

(With agencies inputs) 

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