New Delhi: Sunni Waqf Board on Thursday assailed the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) report, based on its excavation at the disputed site, saying that its conjectures were moving in a “preconceived” direction, in favour of the Ram temple.
“There is a direction this report (of ASI) is going on … see how report proceeds, it proceeds with preconceived view. All through the report Babri Masjid is described as a ‘disputed structure’, but Ram Chabutra as ‘Ram Chabutra’”, senior counsel Meenakshi Arora told the five-judge Constitution Bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
Pointing to discrepancies in the ASI report relating to the existence of a massive structure that was supported by pillars, which is sought to be described as Ram temple by lawyers appearing for Ram Lalla, Ms Arora took the bench through the location of pillars’ and their foundation, showing there was no clarity in what existed when, and whether these pillars supported a massive structure.
The ASI has, in its report, claimed the existence of 85 pillars — five each in 17 rows. These pillars are spread over four separate levels, and each level belongs to a separate period of history. The time gap between the four floors of pillars could be a century or more.
But the manner in which the pillars have been numbered seems random, and this led to discrepancies in the conclusions drawn, Ms Arora pointed out. She told the court that pillar basis number 18 is shown at floor 4, 19 on floor 3, 21 at floor number 3 and 22 at level number 4.
Ms Arora is dealing with the archaeological evidence that surfaced in the course of excavation order by Allahabad high court in 2003. Apart from the pillars, a wall measuring 50 meters, and a five-feet wide base, was also discovered.
Arora said that these “levels” in the ASI report must not be visualised as present day high-rise buildings where one floor is constructed over the other. She said that these layers are separated by centuries and each succeeding layer sits unevenly on the surface on the earlier structure, which got buried under the earth and disappeared.
She said this while addr-essing the question when this massive structure, described by Ram Lalla in suit number 5 as a temple, came about and whether it was a temple or not.
Taking the court thro-ugh different pillar basis (foundations) at different layers, Ms Arora said that such pillar basis could not have supported a massive structure sought to be described as Ram Janmasthan by Ram Lalla and Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu sect that serves the deity and manages the “devasthan”. It is descri-bed as temple’s Shebait.
The deity, Ram Lalla, is a party to the dispute, and is represented by lawyers K. Parasaran and C.S. Vaidyanathan.
Referring to a massive wall being cited as part of the “massive structure”, Ms Arora said that it is located towards the west and, as could belong to an Idgah as well.
In a poser from the bench that never in past Muslim side had talked about the Idgah being there, Arora said “There was no occasion to plead this (Idgah). It arose only in 1989. This question never arose.”
Prior to that the entire dispute revolved around the Babri Masjid that stood on a plain ground in Ayodhya.
She also took the court through the construction material that included lime and surki, which was distinct and came to India with the advent of the Muslim Sultanate. This material was used to plaster the walls of now excavated material.
At the outset of the hearing, CJI Gogoi said that in view of the deadline of October 18 to conclude the arguments, they were left with just 10-and-a-half days to wrap up the arguments from both sides – the lawyers representing the temple and the Babri Masjid.
Thursday was the 32rd day of the hearing that commenced on August 6, 2019.
Besides CJI Gogoi, other judges on the bench are Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.
Chief Justice Gogoi was visibly unhappy when, in the post lunch session, two senior lawyers urged the bench that they too be granted time to present their arguments as they represented respondents in suit number 5 — by Ram Lalla — and the suit number 4 by Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board.
“You can continue arguing till the last,” CJI Gogoi told senior counsel Jaideep Gupta seeking time on behalf a respondent Abi Ramdas. Abi Ramdas has died, and the case has been taken over by his successor Dharam Das. It was Abi Ramdas who had placed the idols in the disputed area under the central tomb of now demolished Babri Masjid.
CJI Gogoi gave indication to Jaideep Gupta that he would be accommodated, while permitting the other counsel to file written submissions. Mr Gupta said that he would take just 20 minutes of the court’s time to advance his arguments.
“If arguments can’t get over by October 18, there won’t be extra day,” CJI Gogoi told both sides and added that the bench will have only four weeks to write the judgment. It will be a “miracle” if the court delivers the judgment in four weeks, he said. Justice Gogoi retires as the CJI on November 17.