The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ayodhya plea

March 25: The Archaeological Survey of India resumed digging at the disputed site in Ayodhya after yesterday’s break as the ongoing excavation took a legal turn with the Supreme Court allowing a petitioner to challenge the exercise.

A bench of Justices S. Rajendra Mathur and G.P. Mathur told Naved Yar Khan he could file a “special leave petition and seek permission” of the apex court to challenge Allahabad High Court’s excavation order.

But the bench refused to entertain a writ petition challenging the high court directive. The judges gave Khan a week to file a special leave petition after “curing the objections” raised by the apex court’s registry.

The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court had on March 5 directed the ASI to excavate the disputed site to determine whether a temple pre-existed the Babri Masjid.

Khan had approached the apex court against this order, contending that “as a Muslim” his fundamental rights had been infringed upon by the high court’s excavation order. But the Supreme Court rejected the argument, saying no fundamental right was involved in the matter and if at all the petitioner wanted to challenge the high court order, a special leave petition was the only remedy.

Closer to the scene of action, court battles kept pace with the digging as the special bench of Allahabad High Court in Lucknow reserved its verdict on how the excavation could be conducted with greater transparency.

The court had invited suggestions on the Central Sunni Waqf Board’s plea to reconstitute the ASI team and the need for greater transparency in the excavation exercise.

Today, it heard suggestions from the rival parties but said the decision on the admissibility of Mohammed Hashim Ansari’s petition to recall the excavation order as well as the ASI’s request for more time would be announced later.

The ASI had sought two months more to complete the digging and another 15 days to submit its report.

Ansari, the oldest living plaintiff in the Ayodhya title suits, made a surprise appearance at the disputed site while the digging was on. He had been boycotting the excavation till now.

On the eleventh day of the digging, the ASI today recovered a damaged pot, broken bangles and some stones from three trenches. It has so far recovered 47 artefacts. These include broken bangles, terracotta pieces and stone and metal objects.

“Though all the artefacts have been photographed and kept under seal on the court’s order, most of them are insignificant pieces of little archaeological significance,” a member of the ASI team said.

While seeking more time to complete the job, the ASI has also sought the court’s directives on what to do in the trenches where diggers had found the floor of the demolished mosque. “Till we get directives from the court in this regard, we are leaving all such excavation trenches untouched,” a source in the ASI said.

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