A court in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi city on Thursday allowed the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct a survey of Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Gyanvapi Masjid complex.

The directive came on a petition filed by lawyer VS Rastogi, according to News18. He sought that the land on which the Gyanvapi Masjid is located should be given to Hindus. Rastogi claimed that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had pulled down a portion of the 2,000-years-old Kashi Vishwanath temple in 1664 to build the masjid.

Rastogi’s petition was filed in December 2019 on behalf of Vishweshwar, the main deity of the temple, asking the Archaeological Survey of India to undertake a survey, according to The Times of India.

The Uttar Pradesh government will bear the cost of the survey, the court ruled.

In January, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, the panel that manages the masjid, had filed an objection to Rastogi’s petition.

The first petition related to the dispute was filed in 1991. The petition contended that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was not applicable in this case as the mosque was constructed over a partly demolished temple and that many parts of the temple exist even today.

The Act prohibits “conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. The Act intended to pre-empt new claims by any group about the past status of any place of worship and attempts to reclaim the structures or the land on which they stood.

In 1998, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee had moved the Allahabad High Court saying that the dispute could not be adjudicated by a civil court as it was barred by the Act. The High Court had then stayed the proceedings in the civil court.

This story first appeared in thecognate.com on APR 8, 2021 here.