Gyan Vapi mosque panel moves SC after HC allows ASI survey

Syllabus: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Why in NEWS

The Anjuman INTA zamia Mosque Committee, which manages the Gyan Vapi mosque in Varanasi, on Thursday approached the Supreme Court within hours of the Allahabad High Court giving the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) the green signal to conduct an “investigation” of the premises.

Previous Judgement

The Supreme Court had in its 2020 judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi temple case held that the “Places of Worship Act imposes a non-derogable obligation towards enforcing our commitment to secularism under the Indian Constitution”.

Archaeological Survey of INDIA

  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is an Indian government agency that is responsible for archaeological research
  • The conservation and preservation of cultural historical monuments in the country.
  • It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.
  • The ASI is headquartered in New Delhi and has about 30 circles into which it has divided the whole country for the maintenance of monuments and carrying out archaeological work.
  • The ASI also has a number of museums and research centres under its control.

Here are some of the most important archaeological sites that have been excavated by the ASI: 

  • Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa: These are the two most important Indus Valley Civilization sites. They were excavated in the early 20th century, and they have provided a wealth of information about the Indus Valley Civilization, one of the earliest civilizations in the world.
  • Sanchi Stupas: These are a group of Buddhist stupas that were built in the 3rd century BCE. They are located in Madhya Pradesh, and they are considered to be some of the finest examples of Buddhist architecture in the world.
  • Sarnath: This is a Buddhist pilgrimage site that is located in Uttar Pradesh. It is the place where the Buddha gave his first sermon, and it is home to a number of important Buddhist monuments, including the Great Stupa and the Dhamek Stupa.
  • Khajuraho temples: These are a group of Hindu temples that were built in the 10th and 11th centuries CE. They are located in Madhya Pradesh, and they are known for their erotic sculptures.
  • Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple: This is a Hindu temple that was built in the 16th century CE. It is located in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, and it is one of the largest and most important Hindu temples in India.

The ASI is a valuable resource for the preservation of India’s cultural heritage. It is responsible for the protection of thousands of ancient monuments and sites, and it plays a vital role in the research and interpretation of Indian history.

Place of Worship Act 1991

It is described as “An Act to prohibit 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 there with or incidental thereto.”

Exemption

  • The disputed site at Ayodhya was exempted from the Act. Due to this exemption, the trial in the Ayodhya case proceeded even after the enforcement of this law.
  • Besides the Ayodhya dispute, the Act also exempted:
  • Any place of worship which is an ancient and historical monument, or an archaeological site covered by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • A suit that has been finally settled or disposed of.
  • Any dispute that has been settled by the parties or conversion of any place that took place by acquiescence before the Act commenced.

Criticism

The law has been challenged on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution, imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cutoff date,” and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs.

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