New Delhi, July 30 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Monday allowed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to remove the illegal construction at the excavation site of a purported mosque near the historic Jama Masjid.
A special bench of Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the ASI to implement its order dated July 19 in which it directed North Delhi Municipal Corporation to remove the unauthorised construction within 15 days.
“The ASI should begin its task in right earnest with all technical assistance to verify the position at site, which they should take possession of. It will be open to the ASI to carry out further digging or any other activity at site as they deem appropriate for verifying the site position and respective claims,” the bench said.
“The stand of the ASI is unequivocally reflected in its notice dated July 19 with which North Delhi Municipal Corporation is, in fact, in agreement. The said concerned authorities with the assistance of police should, thus, implement the statutory mandate without fail,” court ordered.
“We may emphasise that even if by the end result of scientific expedition to be carried on by the ASI, it is established that during old times, a temple or a mosque once stood here, and it is to be treated as a protected monument, the land will have to remain with the ASI, which is to see whether to build or not to build a monument, or to preserve it in its natural state, so as to open the place for public use,” said the order.
People in Subhash Nagar area close to Jama Masjid started the construction of a mosque at the site at Subhash Park after a building’s remains were discovered early this month during excavation for Delhi Metro work.
The area people claimed that the remains were those of the 17th century Mughal-era Akbarabadi mosque.
According to the ASI, Subhash Park fell within the restricted zone of two protected heritage sites — Sunehri Masjid and Red Fort — and any construction in the area required permission from the National Monuments Authority.
It also said that construction at the excavated site was illegal under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.
The court also asked the ASI to submit a status report to the court in a sealed cover within two months, and posted the matter for Oct 11 and on the same day it will decide the contempt plea filed against area legislator Shoaib Iqbal by a political outfit.
The bench said: “The police will maintain vigil so that law and order is maintained at the site and unnecessary rumour mongering and endeavour to give communal overtone is prevented.”
It also asked police to book the miscreants who attempted to create a communally volatile situation at site even after the court’s order.
“The police authorities will also make all endeavours to bring to book the miscreants who caused damage to public and private property. Injured people and attempted to create communal incidents at the site post our order dated July 20.”
It observed: “We must note here with regret the endeavours of a few miscreants who by their hostile action tend to create a surcharged atmosphere and damage public and private property. It is high time that such a group is made accountable both in civil law and criminal law for their misconceived actions.”
The court earlier this month put a stop on construction work at the site at Subhash Park and asked the ASI to investigate if the Akbarabadi Masjid, whose ruins were being claimed to have been found there, did exist or not.
“The government at the highest level would continue its endeavour to ensure that all stakeholders adhere to their assurances given to the lieutenant governor and to this court for maintaining peace and harmony,” the court said.
The court also slammed Iqbal for starting illegal construction at the site. “At least, an elected member of the assembly, who belongs to the ruling government and, thus, a part of the state, should not have resorted to illegal construction.”
“The ASI, being a scientific body, is appropriate body to which the land should be handed over in the present case. It is an expert body which can investigate as to the remains which are contended by the people. Being an autonomous body, it will be able to conduct a research free from any political pressure, bias or undue influence,” the court said.
The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM), a political outfit, filed a petition seeking removal of construction at the site.
It also filed a contempt petition against Iqbal for allegedly allowing the illegal construction.