Gyanvapi Case: In a recent development, the Varanasi court has granted the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) an extension of eight weeks to complete its scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi district.
The court also instructed the ASI to submit its report at the end of this period.
Government counsel Rajesh Mishra confirmed that the court dismissed objections raised by the mosque management committee and allowed the ASI the extra time it requested.
The ASI's ongoing scientific survey aims to determine whether the Gyanvapi mosque, which dates back to the 17th century, was constructed atop a pre-existing structure, potentially a Hindu temple.
This survey was initiated following a ruling by the Allahabad High Court, which upheld an earlier order from a Varanasi district court, stating that the survey is "necessary in the interest of justice."
The decision was made with the intent to benefit both the Hindu and Muslim communities involved in the dispute over the site.
The controversy surrounding the Gyanvapi mosque has seen several petitions filed before the Supreme Court, Allahabad High Court, and Varanasi Court.
These petitions allege that the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the 16th century.
The legal battle was initiated when Varanasi-based lawyer Vijay Shankar Rastogi filed a petition in the lower court, questioning the legality of the mosque's construction and requesting an archaeological survey.
This occurred in December 2019, following the Supreme Court's verdict in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute.
In April 2021, the Varanasi court directed the ASI to conduct the survey and submit its report.
However, the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which manages the Gyanvapi mosque, contested Rastogi's petition and opposed the court's survey directive.
The matter eventually reached the Allahabad High Court, which, after hearing all parties involved, temporarily stayed the ASI's survey direction.
The high court cited the Places of Worship Act, 1991, which prohibits altering the religious character of a place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947.
Notably, after the Varanasi court ordered a video survey of the mosque, a 'Shivling' was claimed to have been discovered inside a reservoir on the mosque complex by the Hindu side, while the Muslim side disputed this, asserting it was only a 'fountain.'