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Since 1st March, 1999
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Fresh Ayodhya site survey
- Waqf board accuses ASI of being swayed by Joshi

Ayodhya, March 11: The special bench of Allahabad High Court today directed the Archaeological Survey of India to make a fresh survey of the disputed Ayodhya site at 10 in the morning tomorrow in the presence of the parties.

This means digging — which was to start at 8 am tomorrow after the ASI had conducted a general survey and prepared a layout of the trenches in the last two days — will be delayed.

The court’s order came in the wake of objections by the Central Sunni Waqf Board, accusing the ASI of showing undue haste in excavation work under the influence of human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

The waqf board and other litigants had yesterday filed an application claiming the general survey by the ASI team on March 9 evening was in violation of the court’s order as it was carried out in the absence of the parties.

The court also ordered that the names and addresses of everyone involved in the excavation — the ASI team and the labourers — should be submitted to it. It also accepted the waqf board’s plea that excavation be carried out only after 10 am, and not from 8 as suggested by the ASI.

“The general survey of the site and layout of trenches, if already done, shall be done again on March 12 in the presence of the parties,” said the nine-point order communicated this afternoon to the ASI and Faizabad commissioner R.M. Shrivastava by Narendra Prasad, the high court’s officer on special duty (Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid).

Today’s court order also emphasised the need for transparency during excavations. In its application, the waqf board had noted that “first the ASI director-general was replaced mysteriously on the eve of the special bench’s order and now the ASI team is carrying out work in violation of the court order”.

The waqf board also pointed out that the court’s March 5 order had specifically instructed the ASI to intimate the date of beginning the work to the OSD so that the parties could be informed and allowed to send their counsel/nominees to remain at the site during excavation.

“The survey of the layout of the trenches as well as digging are part of the same transaction and nothing of the sort should be allowed to be done in the absence of the applicants and their counsel or nominees,” the application said.

The court has also directed the ASI and Shrivastava — who is ex-official receiver of the disputed site appointed by the Supreme Court — to furnish a list of all tools and equipment used for excavation.

The entire exercise should be video-graphed and the video cassettes kept under seal and lock, the court said. All artefacts found should be photographed and also kept under seal and lock at a nearby place.

The court has strictly barred Shrivastava and the ASI team from briefing the media and asked them to report the progress of the work to the court periodically. “On the excavation job, this could be my last briefing before the media,” Shrivastava said.

“This will definitely delay the process somewhat as the ASI will have to go for re-marking of the spots which had already been specified during the survey so far,” ASI team leader B.R. Mani said.

However, he was confident that the ASI would be able to complete the work within the one-month period specified by the court in its March 5 order.

Observers feel that delaying the start of digging by two hours every day will affect the speed of work. “The court has not specified that by what time the excavation should end but the job is normally taken out in day light,” the commissioner said

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