The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court sticks to digging deadline

Lucknow, March 26: The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court today dismissed a petition to review and recall its order to excavate the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The court also turned down a request for an extension of excavation time by Archaeological Survey of India.

Disposing off a bunch of petitions and applications related to Ayodhya excavations, the court appointed two observers to be present at the site to monitor the digging.

It also directed the ASI to include two Muslims in its 16-member team supervising the excavations since March 12.

“In case there is any difficulty in getting Muslim labourers, then the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs will make necessary arrangements for the Muslim workforce,” the court said.

Hari Shanker Dubey and M.A. Siddiqui, the observers appointed by the court, are senior judicial officers of the rank of additional district judge.

The special bench of Justice Sudhir Narain, Justice S.R. Alam and Justice Bhanwar Singh today disposed off the three sets of petitions and applications filed by the litigants and the ASI, clearing the air of uncertainty around ongoing Ayodhya excavations.

While one of the Muslim plaintiffs, Hashim Ansari had asked the court to recall its March 5 excavation order and stop work, the Central Sunni Waqf Board had sought reconstitution of the ASI team and the workforce and some directions to impart more transparency.

The board had objected that there was one Muslim in the ASI team and the majority of labourers engaged in excavation work were Hindus.

The ASI, while submitting its preliminary progress report, had informed the court that it would require two more months to complete the excavation and another 15 days to prepare its report and sought more time.

The court said the ASI petition was “premature” in the sense that the ASI still had time till April 12 to complete digging.

The court asked the ASI to submit the second progress report on April 7. If the ASI wanted more time, it could request the court while submitting the second report, it added.

The court also said the ASI was competent to decide the depth to which digging was to be carried out. In Ayodhya, the ASI excavation team today discovered a dozen more artifacts, including broken bangles, terracotta pieces and disfigured stone images.

Sources in the ASI indicated that the court’s verdict was bound to force them to speed up work.

They, however, doubted whether the task assigned to the ASI could be completed within the one-month limit set by the court in its March 5 order.

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