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Friday 17 January 2020

Muslim side apologises after questioning ASI findings

Rajeev Dhavan, advocate for the Muslim side, apologised for colleague Meenakshi Arara's act of questioning the ASI report on Wednesday

After questioning the ASI report in the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case, the Muslim side on Thursday reversed its stand and apologised for expressing doubt over the scientific finding. Rajeev Dhavan, advocate for the Muslim side, apologised for questioning the report of the Archaeological Survey of India before the constitutional bench of five judges hearing the case.

Dhavan said that he did not want to question the authenticity of the ASI report. Dhavan said, “It cannot be expected that every page should be signed.” The authorship of the report and its summary need not be questioned. If we have wasted the time of the bench, we apologise for it.

During the hearing of the case on Wednesday, another lawyer representing the Muslim side, Meenakshi Arora, had said that every chapter of the ASI had a mention of the authors, but its summary did not. Apart from the Chief Justice, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SK Abdul Nazir said that Dhavan had said at the beginning of the hearing that he could not give up his right to question. The judges said further that he had also said that any piece of evidence could not be dismissed because the court has accepted them.

The bench said further that the Hindu and Muslim sides would have to conclude their arguments within the stipulated time, because not a single day will be given after 18 October. Chief Justice Gogoi said, “After 18 October, there will be no additional time of a single day.”

CJI Gogoi said if the court was expected to deliver the judgment in four weeks, it would be difficult if the hearing were to stretch beyond 18 October. The court asked the Muslim side to wind up their questions on the ASI report in a single day. The court said that there were several days off in October and only one lawyer from the Hindu side would be given a chance to respond.

Significantly, on Wednesday, Meenakshi Arora had said if a structure was destroyed in a dilapidated condition and it was not built, and later another structure was erected on that vacant site, a claim couldn’t be made against the new structure. She was basing her argument on one of the theories on the Ayodhya dispute according to which Mir Baqi, Babar’s general, had found some ruins on the spot before he erected a mosque on it. Since the ASI findings include also some requiem in Arabic, found generally on gravestones, it is assumed that a Muslim graveyard might have come up on the spot before the temple(s) that stood there were abandoned and that, later, the graveyard lay in a state of neglect, too. However, that is a weak ground, as a mosque is not supposed to be built on a graveyard.

Demolition of the structure, Arora had said on Wednesday, was an important contention in the case and that the ASI report did not mention the demolition of the old structure. ASI’s report on this was silent, she claimed. On this, Justice Bobde had said that the ASI report had become a case record and that until the court found some contradiction in the report, it would remain a part of the record. The court reminded Arora that this point was not raised by her in the trial court.

Editor’s note

Arora’s argument is as frivolous as that of Jilani where he had said that the Ramcharitmanas found no mention of the demolition of any Ram temple on the spot. Just as a holy book is not supposed to chronicle news of the times, the brief of the ASI does not include writing commentaries on the process of constructions and demolitions. Archaeology is a science involving aspects of physics, chemistry, geology, palaeontology and evolutionary anthropology to determine periods of existence of relics, which does not involve commentaries on conquests and civic activities of the government of that era.

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