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Allahabad HC extends stay on ASI survey of Gyanvapi mosque premises till Thursday


The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday extended the stay on a survey of the Gyanvapi mosque premises by the Archaeological Survey of India till Thursday. The high court was hearing a plea against a Varanasi district court order directing the ASI to conduct a survey to determine if the Gyanvapi mosque was built upon a temple. During the hearing, a senior ASI official was present in the court. The official told the court that the ASI team was not going to “destroy the structure (mosque)” in any way.

After hearing the plea by Anjuman Intezamia Masjid, which manages the mosque, Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday. The court ordered that the stay on the ASI survey will continue till then. The hearing of the case will resume at 3:30 pm on Thursday. During the hearing in the morning session on Wednesday, Chief Justice Diwaker asked the additional solicitor general of India to call any expert member of ASI from Varanasi to demonstrate to the court how the survey will be conducted, and fixed 4:30 pm for further hearing in the matter. In pursuance of the court order, Alok Tripathi, Additional Director of ASI, was present in the court. He filed an affidavit before the court regarding the survey process.

The counsel for mosque committee, SFA Naqvi, submitted that while passing the order on July 21, the Varanasi district court had come to conclusions that in absence of a survey report, the issue cannot be decided but the court did not discuss the materials before it to come to such a conclusion. Naqvi also raised an objection that the ASI was not made party to the suit and still it was directed to conduct the survey and give its opinion in the matter.

ASI report to be further scrutinised

On this, counsel for the Hindu side Vishnu Shankar Jain argued that there is no such law that an expert has to be made party in a case where their opinion is sought, giving an example of handwriting experts who are never made party in a case. Naqvi also submitted before the court that plaintiffs have no evidence in their plaint and they wanted to produce evidence only with the help of the ASI survey. On this, the high court asked him that if law permits for such a way of collection of evidence (ASI survey/expert survey) then what harm will be caused to the petitioner. Naqvi said that this is not the proper stage in the trial before Varanasi district court for ASI survey/expert opinion.

However, Jain submitted that a survey by the ASI is not going to cause any harm to the structure. Report of the survey will be further subject to examination and proof, the Hindu side counsel said. On Tuesday, the counsel for the mosque committee had expressed his apprehension that the survey and excavation would cause damage to the structure. Naqvi also said that even in Ram Janmabhoomi case, order of a survey was passed after collection of oral evidence.

On Tuesday, the mosque committee had moved the high court, a day after the Supreme Court halted the ASI survey till 5 pm Wednesday, allowing time for the committee to appeal against the lower court’s order.

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