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Published in the 16-30 Sep 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hindu side backs ASI report

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: The arguments on the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) report submitted after the excavation of the disputed Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid site at Ayodhya, resumed on 9 August under the full Lucknow bench of the Allahaband High Court headed by Justice Syed Rafat Alam, Justice Bhanwar Singh and Justice Khem Karan. 

The order to excavate the disputed site was passed on 5 March last year and the final report was tabled before the High Court, Lucknow on 22 August same year. The Muslim side since 8 October last year had started its objections in front of the court, vehemently pointing out the many discrepancies in the ASI report. It finally ended its arguments on 15 July this year paving the way for the Hindu party to set forth its side of arguments. 

The Hindu side began presenting its case on 9 August before the court. While resuming arguments in support of the ASI report it was submitted on behalf of Nirmohi Akhara by their counsel Ranjit Lal Verma (Other Orignal Suit No. 3 of 1989) that the finds of circular shrine, divine-couple and pillar bases etc. established their contention that there existed a temple prior to the construction of the disputed structure. It was also sought to be shown from their side that the objections being made against the pillar bases were not acceptable.

Thereafter, arguments were started on behalf of the plaintiff of the Other Original Suit No.5 filed by Krishna Mani, senior advocate of Supreme Court. His contention was that the merits and demerits of the ASI report could not be examined at this stage and the court has no alternative but to admit the report on record and the merits and the demerits of the same would be considered only after the conclusion of evidence submitted. He further argued that the allegation of malafide intent against the ASI report was not established and the report could not be said to have been filed in violation of the Court’s order.

The Muslim side counsels, including SS Ray, former minister of law, had argued that the ASI was required to give a specific finding on whether the disputed building was constructed after demolition of any Hindu temple but no such finding had been given by the ASI in its report and as such the ASI report was in violation of the Court’s order. 

The first two days were consumed by Ranjit Lal Verma and Shri Krishna Mani followed by Ved Prakash who also represents plaintiff of suit No. 5. He tried to show from the report and photographs filed in the report that the pillar bases were genuine and in alignment with each other and the objection taken before the observers in this respect had been duly replied by the ASI officials and there was no justification for contending that the said pillar bases did not establish the existence of any temple prior to the construction of the disputed structure. It was further argued from his side that the findings of an expert body like the ASI could not be assailed by the lawyers who were simply laymen in the field of archaeology. Madan Mohan Pandey, counsel of heir of Ramchandra Pramhans, emphasised on the existence and location of Walls 17 to 28. These walls were according to him of the period prior to the construction of the disputed structure and were associated with the Wall 16 which was said to be the wall of the massive structure upon which the disputed structure was constructed. He further argued that Wall 17 was actually the foundation of Wall 16 and Wall 18 and Wall 19 were the walls of the structure found in existence at the time of the construction of disputed structure. He therefore submitted that it could not be argued that Wall 16 was the only remains of the massive structure of the 12th-13th century and the pillar-bases alone were not to be seen for the purposes of the said massive structure based on Wall 16. He further tried to show that the pillar bases were all associated with floor No. 2 and as such could not be said to be of different periods.

In order to establish his contention, he further argued about the existence of Wall 17 lying below Wall 16. He therefore, brought certain photographs in which Wall 16 and Wall 17 both were visible but in these photographs the three courses of stone blocks of Wall 16 were not visible and as such the Court may query as to why the lower portion of Wall 16 was not visible in these photographs if Wall 17 was taken to be the foundation wall of Wall 16.

The counsel had no reply to this query of the Court. He, however, assured the Court that some other photographs may be there which will be shown later on in which even the lower portion of Wall 16 may be visible along with Wall 17. It needs to be mentioned that after the excavation the ASI report points towards 28 walls and five major floors. 

Once after the Hindu side finishes its arguments, the Muslim side would be given a chance to file a rejoinder and thereafter the Court would give its final order on whether the ASI report would be accepted or rejected. «

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