The ASI is carrying out a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises, next to Kashi Vishwanath temple here, to determine whether the 17th-century mosque was constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple.
A Varanasi court on Friday granted an additional time of four weeks to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to complete the court-ordered scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises and submit a report.
The court of District and Sessions Judge AK Vishvesha passed the order while dismissing a petition filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, the mosque caretaker, against the ASI’s request for more time.
The court on July 21 had ordered a scientific survey of the complex to ascertain whether the mosque was “constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple”. The survey was to exclude the wuzukhana area sealed on the the Supreme Court order. The ASI was given four weeks to wrap up the survey, the deadline for which ended on September 2.
The committee on September 4 filed an objection, claiming that the ASI was defying orders of higher courts and posed a threat to the mosque building by removing the soil beneath the ground and that the agency was not authorised to conduct the survey after cleaning debris.
In its response, the ASI claimed that it was following the orders of the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court, and all precautions were being taken during the survey to ensure there was no damage to the structure, said Rajesh Mishra, special counsel for the Gyanvapi matter.
Standing government counsel Amit Srivastava, who is representing the ASI in the matter, said the district court fixed October 6 as the next date of hearing.
Advocate Akhlaq Ahmed, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee lawyer, said the court also directed the ASI that the orders of the Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court should be complied with during the survey.
The court fixed September 13 for the disposal of other petitions in connection with the matter.
On Thursday, the committee did not allow the ASI to enter the mosque complex to continue the survey citing the absence of any court order as the deadline had passed. “The court order for the survey was till September 2. Since no additional time was given to the ASI, we did not allow their team to enter the mosque to conduct the survey,” Akhlaq Ahmed added.
The ASI in its September 2 application seeking more time for the survey said, “…In compliance with the orders, the ASI is conducting a scientific investigation/survey at the site. A team of archaeologists, archaeological chemists, epigraphists, surveyors, photographers, and other technical personnel has been engaged in scientific investigations and documentation.”
It said that a team of experts from the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, was “also conducting ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey and the acquired data is being analysed and studied”.
The agency said a lot of debris was found in the cellars of the mosque “covering the original features of structure” and “cleaning of this trash/debris on the working floor level is in progress to examine the structures scientifically”.
“As the court has directed to conduct a survey beneath the ground of all the cellars, it is necessary that soil/debris dumped or accumulated there is removed without causing any damage to the standing structure,” read the application.
It added, “The debris is being removed very carefully and systematically, which is a slow process and going to take some more time before the floor of all the cellars is cleared for the survey”.
The survey was halted after the mosque committee first approached the Allahabad High Court and then the Supreme Court against the move. Both the courts later cleared the decks for the survey that resumed on August 4 amid security.