ASI submits Gyanvapi report in Varanasi court, next hearing on 21 Dec

ASI carried out a survey of the premises, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, to determine whether the mosque was constructed over a pre-existing Hindu temple

Gyanvapi Masjid, Varanasi
(photo: National Herald archives)
Gyanvapi Masjid, Varanasi (photo: National Herald archives)


The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Monday submitted a survey report in a sealed cover on the 17th-century Gyanvapi mosque complex in a Varanasi district court, which scheduled the next hearing for 21 December.

Advocate Madan Mohan Yadav, who is representing the Hindu petitioners, said, "The report a in sealed cover was placed before the court by the ASI's standing counsel Amit Srivastava."

The survey was ordered by the court after the petitioners claimed the 17th-century mosque was constructed over a pre-existing temple. Four senior ASI officials were also present in court when the report was submitted. The ASI was given multiple extensions to complete the survey.

Yadav said, "The court has fixed 21 December to open the sealed report and submit its copies to the advocates of either side. The Muslim side made a plea before the court to not make the survey report public. We countered this plea by requesting the court to make it public."

The ASI carried out a 'scientific survey' of the Gyanvapi premises, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, to determine whether the mosque was constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple.

The survey was conducted on the direction of the district court's 21 July order, which mentioned the need to examine beneath the mosque's domes, the cellars, and the western wall.

It said the ASI should also examine the plinth and pillars to determine the age and nature of the building. The court had asked the ASI to ensure that there is no damage to the structure standing on the disputed land.

The court also ordered the ASI director to conduct a detailed scientific investigation by using GPR (ground penetrating radar), dating methods, and other modern techniques.

The 21 July direction was in response to a plea filed by a group of women seeking the right to regular worship of sculptures of Hindu deities on the mosque's outer wall.

The mosque's wazu khana (used by people for ritual ablutions before offering namaz), where a structure claimed by Hindu litigants to be a Shivling exists, will not be part of the survey, the lower court had said, following an earlier Supreme Court order protecting the spot.

The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee had challenged the district court's order in Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court. The appeal was dismissed by both courts, paving the way for the survey to begin on 4 August. The Supreme Court, however, had asked the ASI not to carry out any invasive act during the survey, thus ruling out any excavation.

On 11 December, the Varanasi district court gave one more week to the ASI to submit a scientific survey report of the mosque complex here. This was the sixth time that the court had granted an extension to the ASI, with earlier extensions granted on 6 September, 5 October, 2 November, 17 November and 30 November.

The ASI began the survey in the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi premises, excluding its sealed section, on 4 August. On 30 November, the district court asked the ASI to submit the survey report by 11 December.

In its application, the ASI had stated that its experts are working on various types of data collected by archaeologists, surveyors and other experts, and assimilation of information generated by different experts and different tools is a difficult and slow process and it would take some more time to complete the final report.

On 2 November, the ASI told the court it had "completed" the survey, but may need some more time to compile the report, along with the details of the equipment used in the survey.

The court then granted additional time until 17 November for submitting the document. But its counsel again sought 15 more days owing to the non-availability of the technical report, and the district judge then asked it to submit its report by 28 November.

On 5 October, the court had granted four more weeks to the ASI and said the duration of the survey would not be extended beyond this.

The survey had begun after Allahabad High Court upheld the Varanasi district court's order and ruled that the step was "necessary in the interest of justice" and would benefit both the Hindu and Muslim sides in the dispute.

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