After a Varanasi court had in October rejected a plea by Hindu petitioners for conducting an ASI-led scientific investigation of the structure to assess its nature, the HC was moved. The lower court had said if during the exercise, the structure is harmed, it will be in violation of a SC order which had called for “protection” of the area where the structure was found. Therefore, the HC on November 4 asked the ASI to submit a report by the next date of hearing on whether the examination of the site through methods of carbon dating, ground penetrating radar (GPR), excavation and other methods generally used to determine the age of old objects will damage the structure or not.
However, in Monday”s hearing, the ASI filed an affidavit saying it needed three months’ time as it needed to consult with “specialised bodies” to give a “comprehensive reply” on the matter. It told the court there could be other “modern techniques” to conduct this exercise. Sources said the court was insistent on expediting the matter, for which the ASI verbally proposed it could submit status reports frequently and speed up the process as they get the right direction.The court will next hear the matter on November 30 when it will pass the order on whether the ASI be granted the extension or not.
An ASI official told ET the organisation was aware of the damage certain techniques can do to ancient structures and did not want to take a risk. “We have the expertise. We just need the time to use the best technique which is why we have sought the time,” said the official. In a related case, the ASI had told the HC in October that it had the necessary technical competence to conduct a survey of the mosque.
Separately, counsel for Rakhi Singh, one of the five Hindu women petitioners who had opposed the carbon dating of the structure earlier saying it would amount to “sacrilege”, told the court that while they were opposed to any exercise carried out on the structure itself, they had no problem if the same exercise was carried out on any other part of the area where the structure was found as that may too determine the age and nature of the structure.
Vishnu Jain, counsel representing the other four petitioners submitted they too did not want damage to the claimed shivlinga and any exercise should be conducted with due protection of the structure.