SC Rejects Stay on ASI’s Scientific Survey of Gyanvapi Mosque Premises

4 August, 2023 | Srishti Ruchandani

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“We reiterate the direction of the High Court that there shall be no excavation,” said the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay the scientific survey by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) of the Gyanvapi mosque premises in Varanasi.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that ASI has clarified that the entire survey would be completed without any excavation and without causing any damage to the structure.
The entire process of scientific survey shall be concluded with non-invasive methodology, the bench ordered.
“We reiterate the direction of the High Court that there shall be no excavation,” said the Supreme Court.
The bench noted that the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court took note of the affidavit of ASI that it is not carrying out any excavation during its survey and no part of the wall etc. will be touched.
The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee has challenged the Allahabad High Court order allowing ASI to conduct a scientific survey by ASI of the Gyanvapi mosque premises.
During the hearing, senior advocate Huzefa Ahmad appearing for the mosque committee objected to the survey saying if someone now comes and files a frivolous plea saying that there is a monument below this structure, will the court order an ASI survey?
To this CJI DY Chandrachud replied, “What is frivolous to you is faith to the other side.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for Uttar Pradesh said the ASI affidavit before the High Court says no drilling, or cutting of stone will be done from the existing structure, no wall or structure will be damaged and it will be done by the non-destructive method.
Huzefa said when you conduct the survey, it is like uncovering wounds of the past and that is what Places of Worship Act sought to injunct. “You are unraveling wounds of the past here,” he said.
Justice Pardiwala told Huzefa that despite assuring that there will be no harm to the structure, you are opposed to the survey.
“This survey will be in the form of a report. Tomorrow, if you succeed in maintainability, it will just be a piece of paper. Let the survey be undertaken by the ASI,” Justice Pardiwala said.
Ahmadi told the Supreme Court that something very unfortunate happened, when the matter was pending before the court, a statement was made by Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath on the issue. “You are the State. You are supposed to be non-partisan in the suit. The statement came while the appeal was being heard,” he added.
Senior advocate Madhvi Diwan appearing for some Hindu petitioners told the apex court that survey is not determinative or adversarial because it can go either way. It’s a chance we are also taking, we don’t know at this stage what the survey would show, she said.
Allahabad High Court dismissed the plea filed by Muslim party challenging the Varanasi court order allowing the ASI to conduct a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises, except the ‘Wazukhana’ area where a “Shivling” was claimed to have been found last year.
Chief Justice of High Court Pritinker Diwaker passed the order, noting that scientific survey is important in the interest of justice.
On July 24, the top court put on hold till July 26 a detailed scientific survey by the ASI to determine if the mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi was built upon a temple.
On July 21, Varanasi district judge AK Vishvesha ordered the ASI survey of Gyanvapi complex on an application moved by four Hindu women on May 16, 2023.
The order of the district judge, however, excluded the ablution pond area of the complex, which has been sealed on the order of the top court.
On May 12 this year, the Allahabad High Court had allowed the scientific survey of this purported “Shivling” but the top court stayed this order on May 19.
During the survey, a structure — claimed to be a “Shivling” by the Hindu side and a “fountain” by the Muslim side — was found in the mosque premises on May 16 last year during a court-mandated survey of the mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
The High Court on May 12 set aside the Varanasi District judge order which had rejected the application for a scientific survey and carbon dating of the “Shivling” on October 14, 2022.
The High Court had directed the Varanasi District judge to proceed, in accordance with law, on the application by the Hindu worshippers for conducting a scientific probe of the “Shivling”.
Petitioners Laxmi Devi and three others had filed a plea in the High Court, challenging the order lower court order.