The Archaeological Survey of India on Tuesday sought three more weeks from the Varanasi district court to submit the scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex to ascertain whether the mosque was built over an existing Hindu temple, reported Live Law.
The court had first asked the Archeological Survey to submit its report by September 2. This is the fifth time that the organisation has sought an extension to complete its report.
Before the current applicaiton, the court had given the organisation 10 more days to submit the report on November 18. The central body was to submit the report on November 17, but had filed an application in the court seeking an additional 15 days.
Prior to this, the court gave 15 days additional time to the Archeological Survey to complete and submit its report on November 2. The central body also received similar extensions on October 5 and September 8.
In its latest application to the court, the Archeological Survey of India contended that its experts are working hard to cross-check, correlate and compile the findings of the survey undertaken by them.
“The ASI experts are working hard in their camp office to correlate different types of data gathered by archaeologists, epigraphists, chemists, surveyors, geo-physics experts, etc. in a unform manner,” the central body told the court, reported Live Law. “The amalgamation of information generated in different forms by different experts and different tools is a tedious and slow process.”
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.