The Supreme Court provided relief to the Gyanvapi committee by halting the “detailed scientific survey” conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
This was until 5 pm on July 26. The survey aimed to determine whether the Gyanvapi mosque, situated adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, was constructed over a pre-existing temple. The court recognized the need to grant the mosque committee “some breathing time” to appeal against the survey.
Responding to an urgent plea from the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM) of the Gyanvapi mosque, the Supreme Court instructed the Allahabad High Court to hear the appeal before the “status quo” order expires on Wednesday evening.
The Varanasi court had previously directed ASI to conduct the survey, including excavations if necessary, to ascertain the historical context of the mosque’s location.
The bench, led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud along with Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, acknowledged the submissions made by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi representing the mosque committee. The bench stayed the ASI’s survey operation until Wednesday evening and urged the committee to file an appeal during this period.
The court directed that the impugned order of the district judge should not be enforced until 5 pm on July 26. In the meantime, if the petitioners move the high court with an application under Article 227, it should be heard before the end of the status quo order granted by the Supreme Court.
The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Uttar Pradesh government, was asked to convey the court’s order to the ASI officials working on the site. The court clarified that no invasive or excavation work should be conducted during this time.
The mosque’s “wazookhana,” a small reservoir for Muslim devotees to perform ritual ablutions, which includes a structure claimed by Hindu litigants to be a “Shivling,” will not be part of the survey. The Supreme Court had previously protected that specific spot in the complex.
The ASI is currently conducting photography and radar imaging at the site, and invasive or excavation work is not underway. The district judge has directed the ASI to submit a report, along with video clips and photographs of the survey proceedings, by August 4.
During the hearing, Ahmadi argued that the ASI survey violated the Supreme Court’s previous order. The bench suggested that the mosque panel should withdraw its plea and approach the Allahabad High Court instead. The senior lawyer expressed concern that the ASI had begun the survey despite the mosque committee’s request to halt it until the apex court decided on the matter.
The court then proposed an order prohibiting excavation work at the site for a week, allowing the mosque committee to go to the high court in the meantime.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had protected the area around the “Shivling,” discovered during a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex. The mosque management claimed it was part of the water fountain mechanism at the “wazookhana.”