A Varanasi court on Friday granted an extension of four weeks to the Archaeological Survey of India to complete its survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex and submit its findings, Live Law reported.
The Archeological Survey of India was earlier asked to submit its report by September 2.
Advocate Rajesh Mishra, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, said that Judge AK Vishvesha dismissed the mosque management committee’s objection and provided additional time to complete the survey.
In its plea before the Varanasi court, the Archeological Survey of India had contended that a lot of debris consisting of garbage, loose soil and building materials was present in the cellars as well as around the structure, covering the original features of the structure and was taking time to get cleared, according to Live Law.
“...The debris is being removed very carefully and systematically, which is a slow process and going to take some more time before the ground of all the cellars is cleared for survey,” it had said in its petition.
The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, the caretaker of the mosque, had argued that the Archeological Survey of India was not authorised to conduct a survey after cleaning any debris or garbage.
“In its application, the ASI has proposed to do the survey after removing the debris/garbage etc, however, the ASI has been ordered by Allahabad High Court or the Supreme Court to conduct the survey only by the scientific method and GPR [ground-penetrating radar] method,” reported Live Law.
They had also argued that removing the debris or soil present inside the western barricading of the western wall of Gyanvapi mosque and dumping it in another place poses a threat to the mosque and that it may collapse.
“...Two trucks of soil were taken out of the private property to ASI, which is contrary to the order of the Supreme Court dated August 4,” their petition said.
The survey was first ordered by a Varanasi district court on July 21 on a petition by a group of Hindu litigants seeking the right to hold prayers inside the mosque compound. However, on July 24, the Supreme Court put an interim stay on the order, allowing the mosque committee to move the High Court against the survey.
On August 3, the Allahabad High Court dismissed the mosque committee’s plea and allowed the Archaeological Survey of India to carry out the survey, saying that it was necessary in the interest of justice. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court the next day.
The court, however, said that no excavation should be done as part of the survey and that authorities should ensure that no damage is caused to the structure.
The Varanasi district court’s verdict came after the Allahabad High Court held in May that a scientific survey could be conducted of the oval-shaped object found on the mosque premises.
The oval-shaped object was found in May last year during a survey of the mosque premises ordered by a Varanasi civil court. The Hindu litigants claimed that the object was a shivling – a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva. However, the caretaker committee of the mosque claimed the object was a defunct fountainhead in the wazu khana, or ablution tank.
The Supreme Court had ordered the area around the oval-shaped object to be sealed. This area will not be surveyed.