Varanasi court postpones to January 3 opening of ASI survey report of Gyanvapi complex

 A Varanasi district court on Thursday postponed to January 3 the opening of an ASI survey report of the Gyanvapi mosque complex and sharing of its copies with the petitioners concerned.

Advocate Madan Mohan Yadav, who is representing the Hindu petitioners, said, “District Judge A K Vishvesha put off the matter of opening the sealed survey report and providing its copies to the parties to January 3 on the plea of Muslim side advocate Akhlaq Ahmed.”

Akhlaq Ahmed told the court that lawyers were busy with Bar Council elections slated for Friday and were not attending to court work.

The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) submitted the survey report in a sealed cover to the district court on December 18. The survey was ordered by the court after the petitioners claimed the 17th-century mosque was constructed over a pre-existing temple.

The court had fixed December 21 to open the sealed report and shared its copies with the advocates. The Muslim side had on that day appealed to the court to not make the survey report public. The Hindu side had sought that the report be made public.

The ASI carried out the scientific survey of the Gyanvapi premises, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, to determine whether the mosque was constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple.

The survey was carried out following the district court’s July 21 order that mentioned the need to survey beneath the mosque’s domes, the cellars and the western wall.

It said the ASI should also examine the plinth and pillars to determine the age and nature of the building. The court had asked the ASI to ensure that there was no damage to the structure standing on the disputed land.

The court had also ordered the Director of ASI to conduct a detailed scientific investigation by using GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) survey, dating method and other modern techniques.

The July 21 direction was on a plea filed by a group of women seeking the right of regular worship of sculptures of Hindu deities on the mosque’s outer wall.

The mosque’s ‘wazu khana’ (used by people for ritual ablutions before offering namaz), where a structure claimed by Hindu litigants to be a ‘Shivling’ exists, will not be part of the survey, the lower court had said, following an earlier Supreme Court order protecting the spot.

The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee had challenged the district court’s order in the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court. The appeal was dismissed by both the courts paving way for the survey to begin on August 4. The Supreme Court, however, had asked the ASI not to carry out any invasive act during the survey, thus ruling out any excavation.

On December 11, the Varanasi district court gave one more week to the ASI to submit a scientific survey report of the Gyanvapi mosque complex. This was the sixth time that the court had granted an extension to the ASI to file its survey report.

Earlier, extension were granted on September 6, October 5, November 2, November 17 and November 30.

The ASI started the survey in the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi premises, excluding its sealed section, on August 4.

The survey had begun after the Allahabad High Court upheld the Varanasi district court order and ruled that the step was “necessary in the interest of justice” and would benefit both the Hindu and Muslim sides in the dispute.

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