Kashi Vishwanath temple case: Varanasi court allows ASI survey of Gyanvapi mosque complex
On Thursday, a local court in Varanasi ordered the Archaeological Survey of India to survey the Gyanvapi Mosque compound adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to see whether it was a "superimposition, modification, or extension, or there is structural overlapping of some sort, with or over any other religious structure." The order will be challenged in the Allahabad High Court by the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board, which called it "unwarranted."
*DIRECTIONS MADE BY THE COURT*
The court ordered the ASI's director general to appoint a five-member committee of experts and archaeologists, two of whom should ideally be from the minority group.
According to senior civil judge fast track court Ashutosh Tiwari, the committee will "trace whether any Hindu temple ever existed before the mosque in question was constructed, superimposed, or added upon at the disputed site." The court stated that the committee must be allowed to reach any portion of the religious structure on the contested site, but that it must first use GPR or a Geo-Radiology System, or both, to determine if any excavation or extraction work is required at any portion of the religious structure. If any part of the foundation is to be excavated or extracted, the court stated that it should be done vertically using the trial trench process, and that it should be done on a very small scale, not exceeding four square feet at a time. The order was issued in response to a petition requesting that the land on which the mosque stands be returned to Hindus, stating that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had demolished parts of the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple in order to build the mosque. According to the court, the DG of the ASI has been directed to conduct a detailed archaeological physical survey of the entire settlement plot no 9130 in Mauja Shahar Khas, Pargana Dehat Amanat, including the Naubat Khana of the northern gate of the Gyanvapi compound and the house towards the northern gate of the naubatkhana. The judge said, "The primary goal of the archaeological survey shall be to determine if the religious structure currently standing at the disputed site is a superimposition, modification, or extension, or if there is structural overlapping of some kind, with or over some other religious structure." The court also requested that the ASI nominate an expert to serve as an observer on the committee, preferably a scholarly figure and known academician from any central university.
The ASI will cover all of the survey's costs and expenditures. “Our understanding is clear that this case is prohibited by the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991,” said Sunni Central Waqf Board chairperson Zufar Faruqi. In the Ayodhya judgement, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the Places of Worship Act. As such, the status of Gyanvapi Masjid is unquestionable. Even then, we can argue that the survey order is doubtful, based on legal advice, because technical data can only supplement those foundational facts.” He claims that no proof has been presented to the court indicating that a previous temple existed on the site of the mosque.