Madhya Pradesh HC orders ASI survey of Bhojshala complex

Court orders the agency to conduct complete scientific investigation through latest methods like GPR-GPS and carbon dating

March 11, 2024 10:43 pm | Updated 11:34 pm IST - New Delhi

Hindu devotees offering prayers at the disputed Bhojshala.

Hindu devotees offering prayers at the disputed Bhojshala. | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

The Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a scientific survey of the Bhojshala Temple-Kamal Maula Mosque complex situated in the State’s Dhar district. The court said a study is necessary to “demystify” the nature of the complex.

The site is an ASI-protected, 11th Century CE monument. Under an agreement with the ASI, puja is performed in the temple by Hindus every Tuesday and Namaz offered every Friday.

A Bench of Justices S.A. Dharmadhikari and Devnarayan Mishra gave the directions while hearing a writ petition that seeks the Bhojshala complex to be handed over to the Hindus and demands that Muslims be stopped from offering namaz on its premises. The Bench observed that that “till and until the character or nature of the place of worship or shrine is not determined, decided or ascertained, the purpose of the temple is bound to be enveloped in mystery”.

“The detailed arguments at the Bar by all the contesting parties fortify the court’s belief and assumption that the nature and character of the whole monument admittedly maintained by the Central government needs to be demystified and freed from the shackles of confusion. How to unshackle the whole site from the shackles of mystery, conflicting narratives, and quandaries is a duty enjoined upon the ASI under Section 16 the Monument Act, 1958, and not upon the Court of law,” the court observed.

The court further concluded that it is the constitutional as well as statutory obligation of the ASI to hold the scientific survey of the site at the earliest. The court hence ordered the agency to “do complete scientific investigation, survey, and excavation, through latest methods like GPR-GPS, carbon dating, etc”. The ASI should not just do a survey of the site in question but also of the entire 50-metre peripheral ring area constituting the circular periphery from the boundary of the complex, the court said.

“A detailed scientific investigation be conducted by adopting carbon dating method for ascertaining the age, life of various structures both above and beneath the ground; permanent, movable and immovable structures both beneath as well as above the ground, constituting the walls, pillars, floors, surfaces, upper top, sanctum sanctorum of the entire complex...” the court said, adding that the ASI needs to do proper documentation of the report to be prepared by an expert committee of not less than five senior-most officers of the agency headed by the Director-General/Additional Director-General of the ASI.

The court asked the ASI to photograph and videograph the survey as well as unlock and open the locked/sealed rooms, halls of the whole complex and prepare a complete inventory of each and every artifact, idol, deity, or any structure found in the said locked, sealed halls, and rooms, and submit the same along with the respective photographs.

“Any other study, investigation or inquiry, which the said five-member committee of the ASI feels necessary to be undertaken, without destroying, defacing, destructing the original nature of the whole complex be undertaken, towards ascertaining the true nature and character of the Bhojshala Temple cum Kamal Maula Mosque for arriving at the truth,” the court added.

In the main suit, the petitioner, the Hindu Front for Justice (HFJ), has cited a ASI report which reportedly says that the originally constructed Bhojshala and Vagdevi temple was destroyed/dismantled to install and construct a mosque at the instance of Islamist rulers and forces. The petitioners, hence, demanded that the ASI should have conducted the survey to clear the confusion about the true character of the site in question.

Maulana Kamaluddin, one of the respondents, has challenged the maintainability of the suit citing the principle of res judiciata (that a judged matter may not be relitigated). He pointed out the a similar writ petition was dismissed by the High Court’s Principal Bench two decades ago in 2003.

The court said that once a survey is conducted scientifically, it can safely rely on the report.

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