Author- YEASMIN BISWAS
Court - In the Supreme Court of India
Civil Appellate Jurisdiction
Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 Of 2010
Appellants - M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs
Respondents - Mahant Suresh Das & Ors
Date of Judgement - 9th November 2019
Bench- Hon'ble Justice Ranjan Gogoi; Hon'bleJustice SA Bobde, CJ; Hon'ble Justice Ashok Bhushan; Hon'ble Justice DY Chandrachud; Hon'ble Justice Sa Nazeer
Background: Ayodhya verdict
Babri Masjid was a mosque in Ayodhya, India, built-in 1528–29 under the orders of Mughal emperor Babur. The site of the mosque is also assumed by many devout Hindus as the birthplace of Lord Rama. Since the 18th century, these contradictory beliefs have been the cause of many conflicts between the Hindu and the Muslims. On 6th December 1992, during a political rally organized by BJP, Vishva Hindu Parishad, and RSS leaders; the mosque was attacked and demolished completely by Hindu Kar Sevaks. In the aftermath, a communal riot across the Indian subcontinent was ignited, killing around 2000 people.
Keyword: Ayodhya verdict, Ayodhya dispute, Ayodhya case summary, Ayodhya case judgement
The Ayodhya dispute is an extensive political, religious, historical, and social contention in India, strong enough to disturb the tranquillity of the Indian society, focused on the controversial land or a hill known as Ramkot or fort of Rama, in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The conflict is centered on the control of a site of over 2.77 acres, claimed by both Muslims and Hindus as their own. This perpetual tension has resulted in the matter of reaching the court again and again. Before the conflict reached the court the site was used mutually by both the Hindus and Muslims for worship and prayers.
In the colonial period, the British government had demarcated the site for the Hindus and Muslims worship areas to avoid any unpleasant incident and maintain harmony. But the agreement was disturbed when a group of people entered the mosque in December 1949 and set up a Hindu idol under the mosque’s central dome. The area was closed off after the incident of 1949, referring to the sub judice suits filed by Hindu and Muslims on the disputing land rights, which later ignited the 1980’s Ram Janmabhoomi campaign.
Facts of the case: Ayodhya case summary
(i) The disputed land forms part of the village Ramkot at Ayodhya, in Pargana Haveli Avadh, of Tehsil Sadarm in the District of Faizabad. The Hindus assert that there existed at the disputed site an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Ram, which was demolished by Mughal Emperor Babur. On the other hand, the Muslims argued that the mosque was built on vacant land.
(II) The Indian Government procured the disputed area of about 68 acres by legislation called the Ayodhya Acquisition Act 1993. T the President of India made a reference to the Court under Article 143 of the Constitution referring to whether a Hindu temple existed preceding the construction of the Ram Janam Bhoomi and Babari Masjid in the area on which the structure is situated.
(III) Writ petitions were filed before the Allahabad High Court. All the petitions and the reference were heard and decided by a judgment dated 24 October 1994. The judgment of a Constitution Bench titled Dr. M Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India held Section 4(3), which sustained the abatement of all impending suits as unconstitutional. The rest of the Act of 1993 was retained to be valid.
(IV) During the hearings, the High Court instructed the Archaeological Survey of India in October 2002 to perform a scientific investigation by Geo-Radiology Technology.
(V) On 30 September 2010, the Bench of the High Court comprising of Justice S U Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal, and Justice D V Sharma delivered the judgment. They observed: We have no use of affirming the accuracy of the contents of the historical documents and nothing proves that the documents are either in favour or against the beliefs of either party.
(V) On 14 March 2018, the court heard arguments on whether the judgment in Ismail Faruqui requires reconsideration. On 27 September 2018, this Court refused to refer the judgment in Ismail Faruqui for reconsideration.
1. Is the Allahabad High Court judgment which divided the Ayodhya land amongst the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara, and Ram Lalla valid?
2. Whether the suits 3 and 4 are barred by limitation under the Limitation Act, 1908.
3. Can the Ram Janmabhoomi be considered a juristic entity, independent of the presence of idols. And if so, is it protected from ownership claims as a juristic entity?
4. Can the Shebaits have the right to sue?
5. Whether Suit 5 can be held to be within the limits on the ground that a divine being is a permanent minor.
(i) Allahabad High Court verdict:
In the judgment, the three judges of the Allahabad High Court ruled that the Ayodhya land be divided into three equal parts, with one-third going to the Ram Lalla (Infant Rama) represented by the Hindu Mahasabha, one-third going to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, and the rest going to Nirmohi Akhara. The judgment affirmed that the disputed land was the birthplace of Rama according to the Hindu faith and belief, and also that the Babri Masjid was not built in compliance with Islamic ethics.
(ii) In 1950 a person named Gopal Singh Visharad filed a suit with the Allahabad High Court asking permission to perform puja (worship) at the site. In 1959 a Hindu religious institution\, the Nirmohi Akhara filed another suit claiming the ownership of the disputed land. Consequently, Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board demanded the owner of the site. The Allahabad High Court bench heard the case for 9 years beginning in 2002 up until 2010.
After the Supreme Court of India dismissed a plea to defer the High Court verdict, On 30 September 2010, the High Court of Allahabad ruled that the disputed land be divided into three parts. The Ram Lalla Virajman would receive the site of the Ram Lalla idol, Sita Rasoi, and Ram Chabutara will be received by Nirmohi, and the rest will go to Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board.
(iii) The final hearing on the case by the Supreme Court on India from 6 August 2019 to 16 October 2019. On 9 November 2019, the Supreme Court ordered a trust has to be formed by the Government of India to build and the land to be handed over to the Hindu temple. It was also ruled that the government has to give 5 acres of land to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque as a substitution for the demolished Babri Masjid.
Arguments: Ayodhya Dispute
Arguments on behalf of the Sunni Central Waqf Board-
A. There was no proof that an idol of a deity existed within the premises of Babri Masjid until the idol was secretly installed on the night of 22-23 December 1949.
B. The grants for the maintenance of the mosque which was originally given during the time of Babur was continued by the colonial government.
C. It argued that the mosque was used by Muslims for namaz for a long time since it was built by Emperor Babur in 1528 till its desecration in December 1949. Hence, the Muslims have more rights on the disputed property.
Arguments on behalf of the Plaintiffs-
A. During the Mugal period Hindus were not permitted to exercise their religious rights and several temples were destroyed, including the temple at Ayodhya constructed by Vikramaditya. According to the plaint, the worshippers continued to worship Lord Ram through symbols such as the Charan and Sita Rasoi and the idol of Lord Ram on the Ramchabutra.
B. It is asserted that no prayers were offered at the mosque because they are trespassers so no valid waqf or endowment was ever created.
C. Suit 5 required as a consequence of the deity not being a party.
Ayodhya Case Judgement:
The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered the ‘Ayodhya verdict’ unanimously on 9 November 2019. The summary of the judgement is as follows:-
(i) The Court ordered the Government of India to form a Board of Trustees for the construction of the Ram Mandir temple within three months. Until the formation of the Trust, the disputed land will be owned by the Government of India and then transferred to the Trust.
(II) The Court ordered the entire disputed land to be handed out for the construction of Ram Mandir. An area of 5 acres shall be allocated to the Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque at an alternative location within Ayodhya.
(III) The Court dismissed the 2010 Allahabad High Court’s decision to divide the land between three parties.
(IV) The Court ruled that the desecration of the Babri Masjid and demolition of the Babri Masjid was a great violation of the law.
(V) The Court opined that the archaeological evidence found by the Archaeological Survey of India suggests that the Babri Masjid was constructed on a pre-existing indigenous and non-Islamic construction.
(VI) The court also observed that all the Janamsakhis clearly stated that Guru Nanak made a pilgrimage to Ayodhya in 1510–11 AD and offered prayers in the Ram temple.
(VII) The Court stated that Muslim parties failed to provide any proof for the absolute possession of the disputed land while the Hindu parties furnished better evidence to prove the same.
(VIII) The Court judged that the suit filed by Nirmohi Akhara is invalid and it had no shebait rights.
All the 18 petitions seeking review of the verdict was dismissed by the Supreme Court On 12 December 2019.
Analysis & Criticism:
The main purpose of this verdict was to pacify every party related and for this reason, there are many contradictions present in the verdict. The honourable court mainly tried to accept the demand made by the majority of the Hindu religion.
The most important aspect of the verdict is that the Supreme Court has used the provisions under article 142 to pass orders. The court accepted in its judgement that the demolition of Babri Masjid was preplanned and a public mosque always stands as a Waqf property. The court judgment described the demolition of Babri Masjid as an egregious violation of the law.
But, the Honourable Supreme Court while granting 5 acres of land to a different location in the Ayodhya disrupts the nature of Waqf land, because, a Waqf property cannot be gifted, sold, or exchanged by the principle. The court has considered the faith of the Hindu Community as the topmost priority to some extent. If the proofs provided by both parties were scrutinized accurately then the Hindu party could have lost the case.
The court also gave utmost importance to the findings provided by the ASI reports, but the formation of the 14 member team was biased because the majority of the team was from the Hindu community. Another criticism is that in the report of addenda, where different European and Sanskrit texts were cited as the evidence of the existence of Ram mandir, but none of the text could provide enough data to prove that it was indeed the birthplace of Lord Rama.
Another question also arises, because the Supreme Court fails to mention that there is no indication in the autobiography of Babur that there was a mandir in the place of Babri masjid prior to its construction. The Judgment is extraordinary because it is the victory of faith over the rule of law.
In this particular case, the necessity to establish peace and make a conclusion was far more important than to undo an injustice. The Supreme Court has opted for the way that is most favourable to establish social harmony. The judgement is more of religious atonement by political settlement and less for the religious rights.
The judiciary has been brave enough to put an end to this lengthy dispute that started as minor litigation, turned into a separatist political cause, and ultimately became the very reason that threatened the concept of secular India. Hence, the culmination of such a sinister matter is such a welcoming event for the establishment of religious peace in India, no matter the cost it needed to earn it.
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