The Qutub Minar complex is not a place of worship and its character cannot be changed now, the Archaeological Survey of India submitted in a Delhi court on Tuesday while opposing a plea challenging the dismissal of a civil suit seeking “restoration” of Hindu and Jain temples on the premises.
The original suit, which claimed that 27 temples were demolished to build the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque at the Qutub Minar complex, was dismissed last year under the provisions of Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
Court reserves order
Additional District Judge (ADJ) Nikhil Chopra has reserved the order on the plea for June 9.
Arguing before the ADJ at a Saket court , petitioner Hari Shankar Jain said the dismissal of the original suit based on the 1991 Act was wrong as the Qutub Minar complex comes under the purview of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act of 1958.
The ASI, however, submitted that the Qutub Minar complex was not a place of worship when it was first notified as a protected monument in 1914.
Advocate S. Gupta, appearing for the ASI, explained that the character of a monument is decided on the date when it comes under protection. Following this, objections from the public are invited for two months. This is how several places where religious practices were being conducted came to be protected under the AMASR Act, the ASI explained, adding that the petitioner cannot at this juncture seek to change the character of the monument.
While hearing the arguments, ADJ Chopra noted that the central question appears to revolve around the character of the monument.
Mr. Jain cited the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi judgment to argue that the character of the area remained that of a temple as the structure was built by allegedly demolishing Hindu and Jain temples.
In its submissions, the ASI said remains of 27 temples were procured for the mosque by spending 2,00,000 Deliwals (coins) on each. It added that nowhere in the records does it mention that these remains were retrieved by demolishing temples.
The court said that the petitioner is seeking to turn the monument into a place of worship based on a claim that a temple complex existed there 800 years ago. “Deity has survived without worship for 800 years, why not let it survive like that?” the court said on a lighter note.