A Civil Court in Varanasi district of UP has allowed the Archaeological Survey of India to undertake a survey at the disputed site of Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque.
The Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to bear the cost of the survey.
ASI has been asked to do the survey to find if there was a "superimposition, alteration or addition or structural overlapping with/over, any other religious structure."
The development comes in a petition field by Advocate Vijay Shankar Rastogi on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar.
The Petitioner sought a declaration that the land on which the Mosque is built belongs to the Hindus. The Court has been urged to declare that Hindus have the right to worship and reconstruct their temple on the said land.
Significantly, the land title dispute relates to the Gyanpavi Mosque, allegedly built on the ruins of Kashi Vishwanath temple.
The Hindu community claims that the Mosque, which is situated adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple, was built after demolishing a portion of the said temple.
According to a suit filed by the Temple's Trust in 1991 in the Varansi District Court, the temple was destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1664 and the mosque was built using the remains of the temple.
In the instant petition, a prohibitory injunction is sought against the Muslim community from interfering in peaceful possession of the site by Hindus.
The petition was opposed by the Gyanvyapi Mosque management committee— Anjuman Intazamia Masazid.
The Court has issued following directions:
- The Director General, ASI shall get a comprehensive archaeological physical survey of the entire site.
- The prime purpose of the archaeological survey shall be to find out as to whether the religious structure standing at present at the disputed site is a superimposition, alteration or addition or there is structural overlapping of any kind, with or over, any other religious structure.
- The committee shall also trace as to whether any temple belonging to the Hindu community ever existed before the mosque in question was built or superimposed or added upon it at the disputed site.
- If so, then what exactly is the age, size, monumental and architectural design or style of the same, and also, as to which of the Hindu deity or deities the same was devoted to.
- For this purpose, the DG shall constitute a 5-member committee of "imminent persons" who are experts and well versed in the science of archaeology, two out of which should preferably belong to minority community.
- The committee shall be entitled to enter into every portion of the religious structure standing at present at the disputed site; and every artefacts supporting the plaint or defence version shall be properly preserved.
- Before entering into survey work at any point of the time, the Committee shall give advance notice to the parties or their counsels, who shall be entitled to remain present.
- While carrying out the survey, the committee shall ensure that the people belonging to Muslim community is not prevented to offer Namay at the disputed site.
- If due to ongoing survey work, it is not practicable to facilitate the. offering of Namaj to the persons belonging to Muslim community at a particular place, then the committee shall— provide such persons an alternative and suitable place to offer Namaz at any other place within the precincts of the mosque.
- The survey work shall be carried out between 09:00 A.M. to 05:00 P.M.
- The Committee shall prepare a comprehensive documentation along with site map of the disputed site.
- Photography and videography of the entire survey proceeding shall be ensured by the committee as a record of the proceeding.
- The committee is expected be throughout aware of the sensitivity of the matter, hence the committee shall always ensure that stakeholders of both Hindu and Muslim religions shall not be subjected to any partisan or preferential treatment and both shall be equally respected.
- Entire survey work shall be done in camouflaged manner, i.e. entire disputed site shall be camouflaged before the commencement of survey and till the same is finished. No general public or media person shall be allowed to have access to witness the ongoing survey work.
- The DG shall also appoint an imminent and highly experienced person who can be regarded as expert in the science of archaeology to act as the observer for the committee so constituted.
It is also significant to note that the Allahabad High Court is yet to decide the maintainability of the suit filed by the Temple's Trust in 1991 for restoration of the land to Hindus. As per the Mosque management, a Civil Court is barred from adjudicating the instant dispute in view of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 read with Section 9 of CPC.