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ASI seeks more time for Ayodhya excavation
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | March 25, 2003 02:24 IST
The Archaeological Survey of India on Monday sought more time to complete its excavations at the disputed site in Ayodhya to establish whether a Hindu temple existed there before the Babri Masjid, demolished by a mob on December 6, 1992, was built there in the 16th century.
The ASI moved a formal application before a special bench of the Allahabad high court in Lucknow, which had ordered the excavations.
The court had told India's key archaeological agency to complete the task within a month. The ASI began the work on March 12.
The three-judge special bench comprising Justice Sudhir Narain, Justice Rafat Alam and Justice Bhanwar Singh decided to continue hearing the ASI's application on Tuesday.
"Since the job is tedious and time-consuming, we have requested the court to grant us at least two months more to complete the work," ASI legal counsel D S Randhawa told rediff.com in Lucknow. "Besides, we have sought an additional 15 days for filing a detailed report before the court."
Meanwhile, two well-known Muslims from Ayodhya made an interlocutory application seeking a stay on the excavations. Haji Mehboob, a prominent Samajwadi Party politician, and Mohammad Hashim, among the oldest litigants in the Ayodhya case, urged the special bench on Monday to stop the excavations.
"The Babri Masjid came up in Ayodhya in 1528 and Muslims, including myself, offered namaaz there right until December 22, 1949, when an idol was planted inside the building," Haji Mehboob said in his application. Hashim made the same contention.
They were of the view that the excavations were unlikely to help end the dispute. "Even if it were proved that a temple existed at the site where a mosque was built in the 16th century, the law of adverse possession would prevent handing over of the land to the Hindus. So what is the point in carrying out the excavations?" lawyer M A Siddiqui argued on behalf of the petitioners.
Siddiqui moved another application seeking the initiation of contempt of court proceedings against Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal for issuing a statement that the preliminary findings carried out during the course of the ground penetration radar survey had already established the Hindu claim about the existence of an ancient temple at the contentious site.
While the VHP is yet to present its case before the court, lawyer R L Verma representing the Nirmohi Akhara, a rival Hindu congregation claiming a right on the site, vehemently opposed Siddiqui. "They are scared that excavations will finally establish our standpoint that a temple stood here to mark the birthplace of Lord Ram and that the land belongs to none other than the Nirmohi Akhara," he said.
The Ayodhya Issue: The Complete Coverage