Making ASI Report on Gyanvapi Mosque Survey Public: Court Defers Decision till January 24
NEW DELHI, Jan 6: The Varanasi district court has deferred a decision till January 24 the demand for making public the scientific survey report of the Archaeological Survey of India ASI) on the Gyanvapi mosque and if a copy of the same be given to the parties involved in the dispute.
The ASI, earlier this year, had approached the court requesting a delay in the release of the report by four weeks to provide the agency breathing time to file the report in the 1991 suit pertaining to the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque dispute.
Judge A.K. Vishvesh adjourned the hearing on the applications filed by the Hindu petitioners seeking a copy of the survey report, till January 24. The court noted that the ASI in its application has said it had already presented the scientific report on Gyanvapi in a sealed cover in the present case. The ASI application also stated that if the survey report were to be circulated among the general public, before being submitted in cases sub judice before other courts, it may lead to rumour-mongering and misrepresentation.
“In my opinion, it seems appropriate that instead of disposing of the applications immediately, it would be prudent to do this after filing the report in other cases. Therefore, the file should be presented On January 24, 2024. Meanwhile, both the parties can present objections,” the court said.
The Varanasi district court through its order on July 21, 2023, had asked the ASI to conduct the scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque to determine if the mosque was constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple. The survey had taken place in the entire premise of the mosque except wuzukhana or ablution area. The orders were given taking on record an undertaking made on behalf of the ASI that no excavation would be done at the site and no damage would be caused to the structure.
The survey started soon after the court order but was suspended after the matter reached Allahabad High Court which upheld the lower court’s order. The survey remained suspended for a brief time when the mosque committee reached Supreme Court. It recommenced on August 4, after the SC nod. The agency took months to complete the survey and file its report running into hundreds of pages along with annexures, which was submitted in the court on December 18.
The orders of the survey came during the hearing of a suit filed by Rakshi Singh and four other women, who sought the right to worship Hindu deities within the Gyanvapi mosque premises all-year round. In their claim, the plaintiffs had said the Gyanvapi mosque and its premises was once a Hindu temple and that it was the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb who demolished the temple to build a mosque above it.
The maintainability of that very suit was challenged by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee by way of filing an application under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC arguing that Hindu worshippers’ suit is barred by Law (Places of Worship Act, 1991). District judge A.K. Vishvesh ruled that neither the Places of Worship Act, 1991, nor the Waqf Act, 1995, nor the U.P. Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983, bar the suit and that the “plaintiffs will have right to prove their averments by cogent evidence.”
Rejecting the objection to the suit, the Varanasi court had held that since the worshippers’ claim that the Hindu deities were being worshipped by them inside the masjid complex even after August 15, 1947 (which is the cut-off date provided under the Places of Worship Act), therefore, the 1991 act will have no applicability in this case.