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Gyanvapi mosque: Court asks ASI reasons for seeking more time to file survey report

Varanasi: The Varanasi district court on Wednesday asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to explain the reason for seeking more time for submitting a scientific survey report of the Gyanvapi complex and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.

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Taking up the plea of the ASI seeking three additional weeks to submit the report, District Judge A K Vishvesh asked a senior ASI official from Delhi to explain the need for more time, to which the ASI counsel said that officials in Varanasi have been handling the task and will apprise the court about it.

The Muslim side represented by lawyer Mohammad Ikhlaq objected to the ASI repeatedly seeking more time.

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The ASI had on Tuesday sought three more weeks from the district court for submitting the scientific survey report of the Gyanvapi mosque complex saying it needed more time for the assimilation of information generated by different experts.

The district court of Varanasi had asked the ASI to submit the report on the Gyanvapi Masjid complex by November 28.

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

The ASI started the survey in the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi mosque premises, excluding its sealed section, on August 4, following court orders.

On November 2, the ASI told the court it had “completed” the survey but may take some more time to compile the report, along with the details of the equipment used in the survey work. The court then granted additional time till November 17 for submitting the document.

But its counsel again sought 15 more days due to the non-availability of the technical report and District Judge A K Vishvesh then asked it to submit its report by November 28.

The ASI is carrying out the scientific survey of the Gyanvapi premises, located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, to determine whether the 17th-century mosque was constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple.

On October 5, the court granted four more weeks to the ASI and said the duration of the survey would not be extended beyond this. It had earlier given extensions on August 4 and September 6.

The survey had begun after the Allahabad High Court upheld the Varanasi district court 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.

During an earlier hearing, the mosque management committee had objected to the survey, alleging that the ASI was digging the basement and other places of the mosque complex without permission and accumulating debris on the western wall, posing a risk that the structure might collapse.

The ASI team was not authorised to survey the premises by removing debris or garbage, the mosque panel had said.

The Gyanvapi committee had also moved the Supreme Court against the high court’s order. The apex court had, on August 4, refused to stay the high court’s order on the ASI survey.

In its order, the bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, however, asked the ASI not to carry out any invasive act during the survey.

This ruled out any excavations, which the Varanasi court had said could be conducted, if necessary.

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