Varanasi Court Directs ASI to Submit Objects Found During Gyanvapi Mosque Survey

The court asked the survey team to hand over all relevant objects, including those tied to the case, Hindu religion, worship system, to the District Magistrate or a designated officer.

New Delhi: A court in Varanasi has directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to collect all the objects and materials, including those linked to the Hindu religion, found during its scientific survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid premises and submit them to the district administration.

The ASI is conducting a scientific survey of the 17th-century mosque to determine if it was constructed over a pre-existing temple structure. The court’s latest direction came in response to applications filed by petitioners from the temple side, pleading for the securing of the Gyanvapi Masjid premises and regulation or restriction of the number of Muslims offering namaz in the mosque to ensure that Hindu symbols and signs are not damaged.

Hearing three applications filed by petitioner Rakhi Singh, district judge A.K. Vishvesha, on September 13, directed the ASI to gather all the objects and materials obtained from the survey site. The court said it was appropriate that all objects related to the case, or those related to the Hindu religion, system of worship, or considered significant for the disposal of the case from a historical or archaeological perspective be handed over to the District Magistrate or an officer appointed by the District Magistrate.

Judge Vishvesha said that the District Magistrate would keep the items “safe” and present them in court whenever summoned. The district judge also directed the ASI to compile a list of objects found during the survey and submit a copy to the court and another to the District Magistrate.

The petitioners from the temple side filed these applications in connection with a suit they had initiated last year, seeking year-round access for worship in the Gyanvapi compound.

The applications filed by the petitioners from the temple side alleged that the caretakers of the mosque, the Anjuman Intezamia Masajid, Varanasi, intended to damage signs and symbols of the Hindu faith inside the mosque. Petitioner Rakhi Singh said that the security of the entire Gyanvapi Mosque premises be secured to protect “evidence” that had emerged from the local court commissioner’s survey last year. However, the commissioner’s report has not yet been admitted by the court, nor have its findings been discussed before they are considered as evidence.

The Anjuman Intezamia Masajid refuted all the allegations made by the petitioner from the temple side, saying that the submissions in the three applications are “false.” The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid argued that the petitioner from the temple side had filed the applications “out of malice” to prevent Muslims from offering namaz in the mosque. The caretakers of the mosque also submitted in the district court that all the items found during the survey of the mosque were untouched and intact.

Allahabad high court Chief Justice, Pritinker Diwaker, had on August 3 dismissed the Gyanvapi mosque committee’s petition challenging the Varanasi district judge’s July 21 order for a survey of the premises by the ASI. While restoring the order passed by the district judge, Varanasi, Chief Justice Diwaker had observed that “the scientific survey/investigation proposed to be carried out” was “necessary in the interest of justice and shall benefit the plaintiffs and defendants alike and come in aid of the trial court to arrive at a just decision.”

The high court restored the order of the district judge, who had in July directed the ASI director to undertake scientific investigation, survey or excavation at the site, i.e., settlement plot no. 9130, excluding the areas (the ablution tank) sealed by the Supreme Court last year. The district court had also directed the ASI to conduct a detailed scientific investigation by using GPR Survey, excavation, dating method and other modern techniques of the present structure to find out whether it had been constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple.

The ASI’s additional director general, Alok Tripathi, had also submitted an affidavit in the court saying that the ASI will conduct survey, documentation, photography, detail description, GPR survey and full studies “without harming the existing structures”. The ASI would conduct a detailed survey in accordance with the law and prepare a list of the antiquities which are found in the building and carry out a detailed survey and undertake the exercise to find the age and the nature of the structure.

Tripathi informed the court that the survey works would be carried out without any damage to the structures.

The scientific investigation would be carried out beyond the structure and in open areas only; no drilling, no cutting, no removal of brick or stones from the existing structure will be done while conducting the survey and study. The entire survey would be conducted by non-destructive method by using techniques such as GPR survey, GPS survey, other scientific methods and other modern techniques. In case any further investigation or excavation was required, the ASI would seek permission of the high court.