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Gyanvapi Case: No ASI Survey Of Mosque Till July 26 – What Is It About And Why Is It Happening Now?

The scientific survey is being conducted over the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi Masjid, excluding its sealed section, by ASI to ascertain whether the mosque was built over a pre-existing Hindu temple.

Updated: July 24, 2023 12:14 PM IST

By News Desk | Edited by Snigdha Choudhury

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An outer view of the Gyanvapi Mosque Complex, in Varanasi. (Photo: ANI)

New Delhi: A survey of the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi mosque by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was conducted for some time today before it was stopped due to a Supreme Court order after the mosque management committee filed a petition against an order by the court of the Varanasi district judge allowing the exercise. The Supreme Court ordered that no ASI survey of Gyanvapi mosque complex will be conducted till 5 PM on July 26. The development comes days after the Varanasi court on Friday ordered an extensive ASI survey of the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi Masjid, excluding its sealed section, to ascertain whether the mosque was built over a pre-existing Hindu temple, holding that the scientific investigation is “necessary” for the “true facts” to come out.

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What Is The Scientific Study About

  • Gyanvapi Masjid land: The scientific survey will be conducted over the barricaded area of the Gyanvapi Masjid, excluding its sealed section, by ASI to ascertain whether the mosque was built over a pre-existing Hindu temple.
  • Three domes: The survey of the three domes of the Gyanvapi complex along with the western wall and the entire complex in a modern manner will bring clarity to the situation.
  • Shivling: The barricaded ‘wazukhana’ is a structure that was claimed by Hindu litigants where the ‘shivling’ exists.

When Will ASI Submit The Final Report On Survey

The ASI will submit the final report by August 4 and the next hearing will be held on August 4.

Gyanvapi Mosque Case: When Did It Start?

It was in 1991 — a year before the Babri Masjid demolition took place — that a group of priests in Varanasi filed a petition in the court, seeking permission to worship on the Gyanvapi mosque premises.

Thirty years later in 2021, the Allahabad High Court stayed proceedings in the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir-Gyanvapi Masjid case in a Varanasi court, suspending a controversial archaeological survey of the premises to determine whether a Hindu temple was partially razed to build the 17th-century mosque, according to a report by news agency IANS. The current controversy was ignited when five Hindu women knocked on the doors of the court, seeking to worship the Shringar Gauri and other idols within the Gyanvapi mosque complex.

Current Controversy: Shivling Vs Fountain

In April last year, a Varanasi court ordered a video survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex after the petition. The report of the survey was initially ordered to be submitted by May 10. However, a delay was caused after the order was challenged by Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board and the mosque committee.

The Gyanvapi mosque survey was concluded on May 16. The Hindu side in the matter has claimed that a ‘Shivling’ was found inside a reservoir on the mosque complex during the survey. The Muslim side, however, dismissed the claim and said it was only a ‘fountain’.

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque dispute was raised by the BJP, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the RSS during the campaign for the construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya along with the Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah Masjid in Mathura. They claimed that all three mosques were built after demolishing Hindu temples.

The controversy has taken an expected turn as both the sides — Hindus and Muslims — have firmed up their stand. UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya has said that the survey had lifted the veil on the truth.

Places of Worship Act Back In Focus

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), on the other hand, termed the court order for videography as a ‘clear violation of The Places of Worship Act, 1991 that seeks to maintain the status quo of 1947 on all places of worship. The Act has been in force since July 11, 1991.

Section 4 (1) of the Act states: “The religious character of a place of worship existing on the 15th day of August 1947 shall continue to be the same as it existed on that day”, as per the report by IANS. The Act in Section 4 (2) goes on to state that if any suit, appeal or other proceedings concerning the conversion of the religious traits of any place of worship, existing on August 15, 1947, is pending before any court, tribunal or other authority, the same shall abate.

It further stipulates that no fresh proceedings on such matters shall be initiated. Section 3 of the Act prohibits conversion of a religious place in any manner, even to cater to a particular section of the religion.

“No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof,” it reads.

The mosque committee’s plea argued that the fresh suits filed in 2021 citing the “right to worship” were “barred by The Places of Worship Act, 1991”, and were an attempt to revive the dispute which had been put to rest by the law.

The Act, however, exempts the Ayodhya issue. Section 5 of the Act states that its provisions shall not apply to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case.

“Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the place or place of worship commonly known as Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid situated in Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh and to any suit, appeal or other proceeding relating to the said place or place of worship,” it says.

While delivering the Ayodhya verdict in 2019, the Supreme Court bench headed by the erstwhile Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, had said: “In providing a guarantee for the preservation of the religious character of places of public worship as they existed on August 15, 1947, and against the conversion of places of public worship, the Parliament determined that independence from colonial rule furnishes a constitutional basis for healing the injustices of the past by providing the confidence to every religious community that their places of worship will be preserved and that their character will not be altered.”

BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay challenged The Places of Worship Act, in 1991, in the Supreme Court last year. He said that the law was a contravention of the principle of secularism as laid down by the Constitution of India.

“The Centre has barred remedies against illegal encroachment on places of worship and pilgrimages and now Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs cannot file a suit or approach a high court under Article 226. Therefore, they won’t be able to restore their places of worship and pilgrimage including temple endowments in the spirit of Articles 25-26 and the illegal barbarian acts of invaders will continue in perpetuity,” Upadhyay’s petition read.

The petition pertained to a legal battle before a trial court over “reclaiming the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura”, which was directly affected by the restrictions under the 1991 Act.

Another petition, filed by Vishwa Bhadra Pujari Purohit Mahasangh challenging the validity of the Act, is also pending before the Supreme Court.

In March 2021, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice S.A. Bobde agreed to examine the validity of the Places of Worship Act.


A fresh petition was filed by five women seeking permission to perform daily worship of Hindu deities whose idols are located on the outer wall of the Gyanvapi mosque and the court-appointed a committee to conduct a survey and videography of the basements of the Gyanvapi-Gauri Shringar complex. The survey was stalled amid objections by the mosque committee, which claimed that the advocate commissioner appointed by the court did not have the mandate to film inside the premises. The committee completed its survey and videography of two basements in the Gyanvapi-Gauri Shringar complex after the exercise resumed on May 14 amid tight security arrangements.

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