A Delhi court on Tuesday, 24 May, reserved orders for 9 June in the petition seeking 'restoration' of 27 temples that were alleged to have been destroyed to construct a mosque within the Qutub Minar complex.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Tuesday, opposed the petition for 'restoration'.
In their reply filed in the Delhi court, the ASI said: "…it will be contrary to the provisions of the AMASR Act, 1958 to agree to the contention of the Respondents or any other person claiming a fundamental right to worship in this centrally protected monument.”
“The intention of the statute is clear that the monument should be protected and preserved in it original condition for the posterity. Therefore, changing and alteration of the existing structure would be clear violation of the AMASR Act, 1958 and thus should not be allowed.”Archaeological Survey of India
The ASI stated that the existing status of the monument could not be altered.
While admitting that there were a number of Hindu sculptures existing within the Qutab Minar complex, the statutory body stated that since 1914, the monument had been protected under Section 3(3) of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1904 (AMASR Act) and was being maintained in situ in the same condition, LiveLaw reported.
Holding that "past wrongs cannot be the basis for disturbing peace of our present and future," Civil Judge Neha Sharma of the Saket Court had dismissed the suit in December 2021.
The present plea before the additional district judge has challenged that order.
'Fundamental Right To Worship Can’t Be Claimed': ASI
ASI further stated, that a fundamental right to worship can't be claimed with respect to the protected monument.
While conceding that architectural members and images of Hindu and Jain deities were reused for the construction of the Qutub Minar complex, ASI contended that the same cannot be a ground to claim right to worship over monuments protected under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act).
Stating that the petition violates the AMASR Act, the ASI asked the Delhi court to dismiss the suit, which was filed on behalf of Jain deity Tirthankar Lord Rishabh Dev through Hari Shankar Jain, alleging that the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Masjid situated within the Qutub Minar complex in Mehrauli was built in place of a temple complex.
What Did The Petitioners Argue?
Hari Shankar Jain, one of the appellants in the case, submitted that the government has notified it (Qutub Minar) as a protected monument and that he wants restoration of deities and Pooja to be offered there.
Further he submitted:
"It is the admitted position is for the last 800 years, it wasn't used by the muslims."
He was thereby asked by the court the even if assuming that is the case and that the temple was demolished, and the structure was raised, and assuming the structure wasn't used by muslims as mosque, "question which is more important is can you now claim it to be restored on what basis?"
In response to this, Jain said:
"Submission is, deity is never lost...In Ayodhya judgment, it's held that a deity survives, it's never lost. If that, then my right to worship survives."
He also pointed out that Section 16 of the AMASR Act, 1958 says: "A protected monument maintained by the Central Government under this Act which is a place of worship or shrine shall not be used for any purpose inconsistent with its character."
What Did the ASI's Counsel Argue?
Advocate Subhash Gupta, appearing for ASI, submitted that there are no ground for interfering with the lower court's judgment dismissing Jain's plea.
"Character of a place is determined on the date when monument comes under purview of 1958 Act. The character once frozen as that in the monument cannot be changed."Advocate Subhash Gupta, appearing for ASI
"When monument comes under ASI under 1958 Act, there is period of objections for 60 days. They are considered. It is for this reason, we have several monuments in country which are and which are not places of worship," he further informed the court, according to LiveLaw.
Further pointing out that Qutub Minar was built years ago and there has been no request or petition for any change, Gupta submitted: "It's only recently that these things are coming up."
The petition has sought the restoration of the 'temple complex' allegedly comprising as many as 27 temples.
This also comes barely two weeks after the Delhi Police detained 44 members of right-wing organisations United Hindu Front (UHF) and Rashtravadi Shiv Sena, who were chanting Hanuman Chalisa outside Qutub Minar, demanding that the centuries-old minaret be renamed 'Vishnu Stambh.'
(With inputs from LiveLaw and Bar and Bench.)