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Underlying structure beneath Babri Masjid was of 12th Century Hindu religious origin, holds SC

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By Manohar Lal New Delhi, Nov 9 (PTI) The Supreme Court Saturday held that ASI findings on the excavation work done underneath the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid site at Ayodhya indicated an "underlying structure of Hindu religious origin dating to twelfth century AD". The Archaeological Survey of India was entrusted the job of excavation by the Allahabad High Court on October 23, 2002 to carry out a scientific investigation at the disputed site. A 5-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which in a historic verdict unanimously paved the way for construction of Ram Temple at the disputed site held that the layered excavation also revealed the existence of a circular shrine together with a 'makara pranala', indicative of Hindu worship dating back to the eighth to tenth century. "On a preponderance of probabilities, the archaeological findings on the nature of the underlying structure indicate it to be of Hindu religious origin, dating to twelfth century AD," said the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer. It said that ASI findings also reveal that the mosque in dispute was constructed upon the foundation of the pre-existing structure. "The construction of the mosque has taken place in such a manner as to obviate an independent foundation by utilising the walls of the pre-existing structure," the top court held. It said that the final report of the ASI indicates that the finds in the area of excavation reveal significant traces of successive civilisations, commencing with the age of the 'North Black Polished Ware' traceable to the second century BC. "The excavation by the ASI has revealed the existence of a pre-existing underlying structure dating back to the twelfth century. The structure has large dimensions, evident from the fact that there were 85 pillar bases comprised in 17 rows each of five pillar bases," the court said. The top court, after interpreting the archaeological evidence on record, said that the underlying structure which provided the foundations of the mosque together with its architectural features and recoveries are suggestive of a Hindu religious origin comparable to temple excavations in the region and pertaining to the era. It said a reasonable inference can be drawn on the basis of the standard of proof which governs civil trials that the foundation of the mosque is based on the walls of a large pre-existing structure which dates back to the twelfth century. Though ASI report has found the existence of ruins of a pre-existing structure, the report does not provide the reason for the destruction of the pre-existing structure and whether the earlier structure was demolished for the purpose of the construction of the mosque, the top court said. It said that 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. "No evidence is available to explain what transpired in the course of the intervening period of nearly four centuries," it said. The top court said that the ASI report does not conclude that the remnants of the pre-existing structure were used for the purpose of constructing the mosque (apart from the construction of the mosque on the foundation of the erstwhile structure). "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," it said. The court said no evidence is available in a case of this antiquity -- on the cause of destruction of the underlying structure and whether the pre-existing structure was demolished for the construction of the mosque. "Title to the land must be decided on settled legal principles and applying evidentiary standards which govern a civil trial," it said. The top court in its 1045-page verdict also rejected the objections of Muslim parties that archaeology is a branch of knowledge in the social sciences, which is not exact and is inherently subjective. "Archaeology as a science draws on multi-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary approaches. In considering the nature of archaeological evidence, it is important to remember that archaeology as a branch of knowledge draws sustenance from the science of learning, the wisdom of experience and the vision which underlies the process of interpretation," it said, adding that it is not a weakness but a strength as it combines both science and Arts. It also rejected the defence of Muslim parties that the pre-existing structure had an Islamic origin and it was an 'Idgah' or 'Kanati Masjid' and said that during excavation ASI has founds two parallel walls which indicates that it was not Idgah and the underlying structure was not of Islamic origin. PTI MNL ABA SJK RKS SA

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