Uttar Pradesh, India: On April 5, the Allahabad High Court criticised the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) Director General V Vidyavathi for her failure to submit a reply on whether a safe evaluation of the age of the ‘Shivling’ found inside the Gyanvapi complex is possible.
Justice Arvind Kumar Mishra-I called the ASI DG’s ‘lethargic’ attitude ‘deplorable’ and said that “such practice must be deprecated.” He observed that the DG’s inaction “appears to have hampered the proceedings of this Court on the point of consideration and disposal of this revision.” The Court has given the ASI DG to submit the desired report by April 17 before the next hearing in the case.
The Court said, “last opportunity was given to the Director, Archaeological Survey of India for submitting the desired report, however, the same has not been submitted as yet which inaction appears to have hampered the proceedings of this Court on the point of consideration and disposal of this revision.”
“Certainly this lethargic attitude on the part of the Director General, Archaeological Survey of India is highly deplorable and such practice must be deprecated. The desired report has not been submitted though directed since last November, 2022,” the Court added. Furthermore, the Court said, “A high authority holding post of Director General, Archaeological Survey of India, controlling particular administration all over the country must know seriousness of the matter and ought to respect the orders of the Court, primarily of higher Courts.”
The Court said that the ASI DG does not “deserve any further time” to submit the desired report, however it claimed that a last chance can be giving as “it would be in the fitness of things before proceeding straightway with consideration of merit of this revision.”
The Court stated, “Things cannot be kept pending for long when the matter has element of high publicity all over the country.” The Court added, “This Court will not permit any authority to occasion delay on the pretext of the submission of the desired report of the Archaeological Survey of India.”
The Court directed the parties to exchange pleadings and to prepare the case for arguments as it will be heard on merits on the next hearing. The Court said, “In the meanwhile, both the parties shall exchange pleadings, prepare the case for arguments as the case will be heard on merits on the date fixed and no further time will be granted to either of the parties,” while listing the next hearing for the case for April 17.
The Court was hearing a petition filed by Lakshmi Devi and three others, challenging the Varanasi district court’s order of a ‘scientific survey’ of the purported Shivling, which is claimed to be a part of the fountain of the wazu khana by the mosque management. The court, however, rejected the plea on October 14, saying that doing so could damage the structure.
The trial court said, “If Carbon Dating or Ground Penetrating Radar is permitted and if any damage is caused to the ‘Shiva Linga’ then it would be a violation of the Supreme Court order to protect it and it might also hurt the religious sentiments of the general public.”
The revisionist’s counsel, Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, said only a scientific survey (carbon dating) could bring forth correct information on the ‘Shivling’ found in the Gyanvapi complex, along with other religious items. Furthermore, it would establish beyond doubt how old the ‘Shivling’ and other idols found there are, the revision’s counsel submitted.
Earlier, on March 20, the Allahabad High Court granted extension to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to file its report on whether a safe evaluation of the ‘Shivling’ found in the Gyanvapi complex can be done. The Court said that it has already given a time extension to the ASI for obtaining advice from other agencies. Furthermore, he said that the time extension application is working against the interest of justice.
The revisionist’s counsel “regretted that the exercise could not be completed within eight weeks that was accorded to the Archaeological Survey of India. However, looking to the gravity of the matter, consultation with other agencies is indispensable.”
However, the revisionist’s counsel opposed the plea arguing that ASI was given 8 weeks to submit the report in January and “to seek further time would be nothing but to prolong the matter for no sanguine reason.”