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Five weeks and no more, court tells ASI

Lucknow, July 3: A special bench of Allahabad High Court hearing the temple-mosque dispute today turned down the Archaeological Survey of India’s request for three more months to complete its excavation at the disputed site.

Though peeved at the survey’s slow pace of work, the court granted five more weeks and clearly indicated there would be no more extensions.

To ensure faster digging, the court has directed the survey’s director-general to strengthen the excavation team. The bench of Justices Sudhir Narain, S.R. Alam and Bhanwar Singh told the survey to submit its report on August 22.

The survey will get two more weeks, over the five weeks assigned for excavation, to compile the report.

The court asked the director-general to depute within three days four additional superintending archaeologists to the excavation site. The survey chief was also asked to arrange four more archaeologists within three days.

At present, the 16-member team has six archaeologists along with two members of Tojo-Vikas International, the Indo-Canadian firm that originally conducted a ground penetrating radar survey of the disputed site.

“The excavation job should not be stopped under any condition and in case of any eventuality, it could be stopped but only after the chief engineer, PWD, duly certifies that amidst existing situation, the excavation was not possible,” the court said.

The bench directed the Faizabad commissioner to ensure within three days proper lights and free passage of air in the trenches at the site.

The survey had wanted the digging to be resumed after the monsoon in October, but the Central Sunni Waqf Board had alleged it was deliberately delaying the excavation so that the BJP could exploit the issue in the coming Assembly elections in four states.

The court said there was no need for the survey to submit a progress report; only the final report of August 22 would be considered.

The Waqf Board had objected to the survey’s views expressed in its progress reports submitted to the court since the excavation started on March 12, accusing it of “working on the diktats of its political masters in Delhi”.

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