The Varanasi district court has directed the Archaeological Survey of India to hand over all objects related to the Hindu religion or of historical relevance found during its scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex to the district magistrate, Live Law reported on Thursday.

The court also asked the district magistrate or a person nominated by the officer to preserve the objects and present them to the court when necessary.

The Archeological Survey of India is conducting a survey of the 17th-century mosque to determine if it was constructed after destroying a temple structure.

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 latest district court order came following applications moved by one of the petitioners, Rakhi Singh. She had claimed that the mosque’s caretakers – the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee – were destroying historical evidence related to the Hindu religion found inside the premises.

A second application by Singh sought orders to seal some areas of the Gyanvapi mosque premises where some of the litigants have claimed that Hindu signs and symbols exist, so that “no damage can be done to the same by Anjuman Masjid Committee and Namaz offerers”.

The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, in its reply, said that the petitioner’s allegations were false, and that the applications had been filed “out of malice” to prevent Muslims from praying in the mosque, The Wire reported.

The mosque committee stated that all the objects found during the survey were untouched and intact.