NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a halt to the ongoing detailed scientific survey of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at the disputed site of Gynavapi Mosque until 5pm on Wednesday (July 26).

It permitted the mosque management committee to move Allahabad high court for appropriate relief.
“We are of the view that some breathing time should be granted to the mosque committee,” said the SC-bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud.

“To permit them some breathing time, we direct that the district court order shall not be enforced till 5pm on July 26. If the petitioner moves the high court, the registrar-judicial of the high court shall ensure that it is placed before a roster (a bench) so that it is heard before the status quo order ends,” the bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said in its order.
Earlier today, while hearing a contempt petition filed by the Gyanvapi mosque management committee against the Varanasi district court’s order for an ASI survey of the mosque complex, the apex court had asked the ASI not to do any excavation or invasive method for survey at Gyanvapi mosque site till 11.15 am.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, informed the bench that the ASI is conducting photography and radar-imaging at the site. “The ASI has not done any excavation, removed/broken a single brick of Gyanvapi mosque and is carrying out only measurement, photography, radar imaging of the area under survey. No excavation would be carried out for a week,” the SG said.
A 30-member ASI had entered the Gyanvapi complex early on Monday morning to carry out a scientific survey in accordance with court orders to determine if the mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple was built upon a temple. Lawyers of all the Hindu petitioners to the legal dispute are also present at the spot.

The mosque’s ‘wazukhana’ (a small reservoir for Muslim devotees to perform ritual ablutions), where a structure claimed by the Hindu litigants to be a ‘Shivling’ exists, is not a part of the survey, following an earlier Supreme Court order protecting that spot in the complex.
Advocate Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi, representing the Hindu side, said that the result of the survey will be favourable to Hindus.

“We are sure that the whole premise is of temple only. The result of the survey will be favourable to us,” he said.
Last week, Varanasi district judge AK Vishvesha had ordered the ASI survey of Gyanvapi complex on an application moved by four Hindu women on May 16, 2023.
Citing an Allahabad HC’s stay on the survey of the Gyanvapi complex in September 2022, the mosque committee – Anjuman Intezamia Masajid (AIM) – filed an online special leave petition (SLP) in the apex court seeking an urgent hearing in the case.

Watch: ASI begins survey amid tight security at Gyanvapi mosque, Varanasi

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Watch: ASI begins survey amid tight security at Gyanvapi mosque, Varanasi

The petition has also cited the SC’s May 19 stay on Allahabad high court’s order for scientific survey of the purported ‘shivling’ found in the ablution pond of the mosque during a court-mandated survey in May 2022.
The Allahabad HC had on May 12, 2023 allowed the scientific survey of this purported ‘shivling’ but the apex court stayed this order on May 19. Before this, the Allahabad HC, in September 2022, had stayed another order of a Varanasi civil judge, passed in April 2022, for the ASI survey of the Gyanvapi complex.
– With agency inputs
Watch Gyanvapi mosque survey: Supreme court stops ongoing ASI survey till July 26


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