The order came just over a year after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, saying there will be a Ram Mandir at the disputed site and Muslims will be given an alternate 5-acre land for their mosque.
In its order on Thursday, the court of civil judge (senior division), fast track, Ashutosh Tiwari, directed the ASI director general to constitute a five-member committee of eminent persons who are experts and well-versed in the science of archaeology, two of whom should preferably belong to the minority community.
In its order, the court also directed the DG to appoint an eminent and highly experienced person, who can be regarded as expert in the science of archaeology, to act as observer. “Such person should preferably be a scholarly personality and established academician of any central university,” it said.
The five-member committee shall submit a report of its survey work to the observer on a daily basis.
The court further said the “committee shall prepare comprehensive documentation along with the drawing, plan, elevation, site map with precise breadth and width of the disputed site, marked with hatched lines in the plaint map”.
“The purpose of the archaeological survey shall be to find out as to whether the religious structure standing at the present and disputed site is a superimposition, alteration or addition or there is structural overlapping of any kind. If so, then what exactly is the age , size, monumental and architectural design or style of the religious structure, and what material has been used for building the same, “the court said.
For that purpose, the committee shall be entitled to enter into every part of the religious structure, the order said.
The committee shall first resort to ground penetrating radar or geo-radiology system or both to satisfy itself as to whether any excavation or extraction work is needed in any part. The excavation should be done by trial trench method vertically on a very small scale, and horizontal excavation shall be done only when the committee is fully satisfied of being able to reach a more concrete conclusion regarding the archaeological remains below the ground.
Advocate Vijay Shankar Rastogi, as the “next friend” of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar, had filed an application in the court of civil judge in December 2019 requesting a survey of the entire Gyanvapi compound by the ASI. He also demanded the restoration of the land on which the mosque stood to Hindus, asserting that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had pulled down parts of the old Kashi Vishwanath temple to build it.
In January 2020, defendant Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee had filed an objection against the petition.
The first petition was filed in Varanasi civil court in 1991, seeking permission for worship in Gyanvapi. The petitioner had contended that the temple was built by Maharaja Vikramaditya about 2,050 years ago, but Aurangzeb destroyed it in 1664 and used its remains to construct a mosque, which is known as Gyanvapi masjid, on a portion of the temple land.
The petitioner had requested the court to issue directions for removal of the mosque from the temple land and give back its possession to the temple trust. The petition contended that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was not applicable on the suit as the mosque was constructed over a relatively demolished temple and many parts of the temple exist even today.
In 1998, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee moved the high court contending the mandir-masjid dispute could not be adjudicated by a civil court as it was barred by law. The high court then stayed the proceedings in the lower court. In February 2020, the petitioners approached the lower court again to resume hearing as the HC had not extended the stay in the past six months.