‘SC Said Huge Temple Existed’: Is Ex-ASI Member’s Claim True?

The SC said that the underlying structure below the disputed site at Ayodhya was “not an Islamic structure.”

4 min read
 KK Muhammed, former regional director (North), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court delivered a unanimous 1045-page judgment on the Ayodhya title dispute on Saturday, 9 November. The apex court ruled that Hindus will get the disputed land in Ayodhya subject to conditions. The inner and outer courtyards will be handed over to a Centre-led trust, and a suitable plot of land measuring five acres shall be given to the Sunni Waqf Board.

Reacting to the verdict, KK Muhammed, former regional director (North), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said, “On the basis of archaeological and historical evidences that were supplied by ASI, Court came to the conclusion that there was a huge magnificent temple earlier and we should build a new temple once more.”

Did the Supreme Court really come to a conclusion that there was a temple before? Did it mention that if there allegedly was one, it was huge and magnificent?

Let’s look at what the top court’s verdict really says.


‘Not an Islamic Structure’

While the Court did say that the mosque was not built on a vacant land and there was an underlying structure below the land, it did not mention that the underlying structure was "a temple," as claimed by Muhammed.

The Supreme Court said that the underlying structure below the disputed site at Ayodhya was “not an Islamic structure.” It observed that the ASI has not been able to establish whether a temple was demolished to build a mosque.

On the ASI report about the remains of an underlying structure of a Hindu religious origin, the court drew a “reasonable inference” and said that it is subject to the following caveats:

“(i) While the ASI report has found the existence of ruins of a preexisting structure, the report does not provide:

(a) The reason for the destruction of the pre-existing structure; and
(b) Whether the earlier structure was demolished for the purpose of the construction of the mosque.

(ii) Since the ASI report dates the underlying structure to the twelfth century, there is a time gap of about four centuries between the date of the underlying structure and the construction of the mosque.” (Page 906 of the judgment)

The verdict further goes on to say:

“No evidence is available to explain what transpired in the course of the intervening period of nearly four centuries;

(iii) The ASI report does not conclude that the remnants of the preexisting structure were used for the purpose of constructing the mosque (apart, that is, from the construction of the mosque on the foundation of the erstwhile structure); and

(iv) The pillars that were used in the construction of the mosque were black Kasauti stone pillars. ASI has found no evidence to show that these Kasauti pillars are relatable to the underlying pillar bases found during the course of excavation in the structure below the mosque.” (read PART P on page 907)

Further, nowhere in the judgment does the court mention that the underlying structure was “huge” or “magnificent,” as claimed by Muhammed.

Why the Court Allotted the Disputed Site to Hindus

In a story on The Quint, it has been explained what the Hindu parties and Muslim parties were able to establish regarding the land which has been considered as a whole and not as divisible between the inner and outer courtyards.

The Hindu parties were able to prove access to the whole of the site including the mosque’s precincts for worship prior to 1857, based on the following evidence:

  • The ASI report which indicated the presence of a Hindu religious structure till around the 12th century;
  • Historical records of travellers that indicated specific places of worship, circumambulation (parikrama) at the site, and presence of worshippers at the site.

The Hindus were also able to establish that they had access to the inner courtyard before and after 1857 on the basis of the following evidence:

  • Testimonies of witnesses about the offering of ‘darshan’ at not just the Ram Chabutra and the Sita Rasoi, but the ‘Garb Grih’, which was within the three-domed structure;
  • Testimonies of Hindu witnesses about the offering of prayers by Hindus at the Kasauti stone pillars inside the mosque;
  • Testimonies of Muslim witnesses that acknowledge presence of symbols of Hindu significance inside and outside the mosque.
While the Sunni Waqf Board was unable to provide any evidence of “possession, use or offering of worship in the mosque prior to 1856-7” –which their lawyer, Rajeev Dhavan admitted to (see para 741 of the judgment).

Because of which, the court held that “no conclusion can be drawn that prior to 1857, the disputed site was used for worship by the resident Muslim community.”

Paragraph 800 of the judgment describes how the judges assessed what the Hindu and Muslim parties had proved before them:

“...on a balance of probabilities, the evidence in respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims ...”

For pre-1857, only the Hindu parties could provide proof of possession, but not an exclusive one. On the other hand, for post-1857, the Hindus were able to establish unimpeded possession to the outer courtyard and that they were contesting for possession of the inner courtyard.

While for the same period, the Muslim parties proved possession but not exclusive possession of the inner courtyard. This is the reason why the possession of the disputed land was given to the Hindu parties and not the Muslims.

Read the full judgment here.

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