The Supreme Court on Monday slapped a fine of Rs. 1 lakh each on all petitioners while dismissing two PILs seeking protection and conservation of ancient remains and artefacts which are found while digging the land around the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya during the construction of the temple.
Miffed with the plea, the 3-judge Bench, comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, viewed it as an attempt to stall the implementation of the Ayodhya land dispute verdict and consequently deemed it frivolous.
Senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy, on behalf of the petitioners, attempted to submit that their prayer was only to ensure that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) may supervise the levelling and digging at the site and seize whatever artefacts and antiquities may be found. However, Justice Mishra intervened to ask why such a petition was filed before the Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.
Going on to dismiss the petition, Justice Mishra pulled up the petitioners and stated "stop filing such frivolous petitions! What do you mean by this? Are you saying that there is no Rule of Law and the Judgement of the Court (Ayodhya Verdict) will not be followed by anyone and no one will take action?"
Upon being urged by the Solicitor General to impose costs for filing this plea, Justice Mishra went on to impose costs of Rs. 1 lakh on each petitioner, which must be deposited within a period of one month.
The petitioners, researchers in the field of ancient caves and monuments, had moved the Top Court with this plea for ASI to carry out excavation of the site of the proposed Ram Temple Construction along with its adjoining areas so that ancient artefacts, antiquities and monuments could be recovered and scientific research be conducted in analyzing them.
While emphasizing the need to carry out excavation work, it is pointed out that the same was undertaken in 2003 after directions of the Allahabad High Court, but no excavation was done on the site of Ram Temple construction.
The petitioners also averred to media reports which suggest that certain artefacts were found at the site while removing debris in May, but were not handed over to the ASI or the Central Government. Instead, it is informed, these ancient remains were left at the site itself, without any protection.
Thus, it was prayed that Centre, State Government, ASI and other concerned authorities be directed "to acquire the ancient's remains, artifacts, antiquities and monuments from Respondent No. 6 (Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth) which was found in the month of May 2020 at the time of leveling, digging and excavating the land of birth of place of Shri. Ram for construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya, District Faizabad, State Utter Pradesh and conserve and protect them as per Article 29(1) &49 of Constitution of India, 1950 and the provisions of The Ancient Monuments and Archeological sites and remains Act, 1958".
The petitioners had also drawn attention to the fact that the recovered artefacts were being projected as remains of Hindu culture and religion without any scientific research or analysis being conducted on them.
"…the said artifacts and sculptures are the remains of reach ancient Indian culture and therefore those are required to be protected and scientific, archeological research at to their origin is required to be made", they urged.
Additionally, it was alleged that digging and levelling activities were not being carried out under the supervision of the Director General (DG), ASI, who is competent authority for protection and conservation of ancient sites and monuments. Furthermore, the petitioners claimed that local authorities and competent ASI officers are also not present at the site while digging and levelling are carried out, therefore unearthed artifacts and sculptures are not being recovered.
To buttress their arguments, it was further pointed out that the Chairperson of the Centre for Dalit Studies, Hyderabad had claimed that the aforementioned remains bear a close link with ancient Buddhist culture and literature. Reference was also made to a letter written by the Secretary of Samyak Vishwa Sangh, requesting DG, ASI to take into the custody and preserve artefacts and sculptures.
"It is also learnt that said ancient artifacts and monuments are under grave threats of being damaged and destroyed at the site. Therefore the Petitioners being aggrieved by the said apprehension of loss of recovered ancient art effect are constrained to approach before this Hon'ble Court", they submitted.
It was further stated that the petitioners had made a representation on this issue to the DG, ASI along with other authorities responsible for the protection of such artefacts, but received no response.
To allay any thoughts of an attempt to stall the construction process, the petitioners had expressly mentioned in their prayer that the District Magistrate of Faizabad be directed to record the entire process of digging and excavation on video, "while constructing Shri. Ram Temple at Ayodhya, District Faijabad, State Utter Pradesh."