The Supreme Court on Monday halted a “detailed scientific survey” of the ASI to determine if the Gyanvapi mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi was built upon a temple till 5 pm on July 26 and asked the Allahabad High Court to hear an appeal filed by the mosque committee before the expiry of its order.
A Varanasi court directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Friday to conduct the survey — including excavations, wherever necessary — to determine if the mosque was built at a place where a temple existed earlier.
A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud took note of the submissions made by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, who appeared in the court on behalf of the mosque committee, stayed the operation of the order till Wednesday evening and asked the committee to file an appeal in the meantime.
“We are of the view that some breathing time should be granted to the mosque committee,” said the bench that also comprised Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.
“We permit the petitioner (mosque committee) to move the high court under Article 227 (writ jurisdiction of high courts), challenging the order of the district judge of Varanasi, having taken regard of the fact that the order was passed at 4:30 pm on July 21 and the ASI survey is being carried out today.
“To permit them some breathing time, we direct that the district court order shall not be enforced till 5 pm 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 said in its order.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Uttar Pradesh government, took instructions and informed the bench that the ASI is conducting photography and radar-imaging at the site and presently, no invasive or excavation work is underway.
Earlier, the bench said it will hear the plea during the day.
The mosque’s “wazookhana” (a small reservoir for Muslim devotees to perform ritual ablutions), where a structure claimed by the Hindu litigants to be a “Shivling” exists, will not be part of the survey, following an earlier Supreme Court order protecting that spot in the complex.
District Judge A K Vishvesh has directed the ASI to submit a report to the court by August 4, along with video clips and photographs of the survey proceedings.