Allahabad HC allows ASI survey at Gyanvapi Mosque

The Allahabad High Court on Thursday gave the go-ahead for a scientific survey at Gyanvapi, dismissing a Muslim body’s petition which had challenged a lower court order asking the ASI to perform the survey to determine if the 17th-century mosque was built over a temple.

The district court order is just and proper, and there is no need to meddle with it, the High Court observed. It also asserted that no digging should be done during the survey.

Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, who represented the Hindu side, said the High Court stated the district court’s order on the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) survey will be effective immediately.

Varanasi District Magistrate (DM) S Rajalingam said the ASI has sought assistance from the local administration to start the survey from Friday.

Dismissing the petition filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee, which manages the mosque, the High Court said the 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 will not cause any damage to the structure, the court said, asserting that no digging should be done on the mosque premises.

The Varanasi district court had on July 21 directed the 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.

The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid 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.

Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Pritinker 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 Vishnu Shankar Jain told reporters that the High Court said the district court’s order on the ASI survey will be effective immediately.

“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,” he said.

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.

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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.

Intezamia committee secretary Mohd Yasin said they are waiting for a copy of the court order and will decide the future course of action after studying it.

He appealed to people to maintain peace.

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.

Varanasi DM S Rajalingam said the ASI has sought assistance from the district administration to carry out the survey from Friday and all assistance will be provided to it.

The mosque ‘wazukhana’, 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.

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