AUTHOR- Rutveek Jawalekar, Government Law College, Mumbai.
Everyone knows the “M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs vs. Mahant Suresh Das & ors” case! No? Are you sure? The case is none other than the Ram Janmabhoomi or the Ayodhya case!
Ayodhya!- This Indian city has been ground zero for Hindu-Muslim clashes for decades. An eminent Supreme Court has pronounced a verdict that has tried to put an end to the ever never ending arguments.
The Ayodhya case technically is a case of land disagreement between two Hindu and a Muslim group. Both the parties believe that the 2.77 acre plot of land in the city of Ayodhya to be pious to their religion. The case has much more to it than merely a land dispute; it has changed the course of Indian politics at the core. The Ram janmabhoomi case has been a flashpoint in the politics after independence.
2. FACTS AND ISSUES:
The Ayodhya Controversy is as old as the idea of India. In the 15th century, the Mughals invaded India capturing much of the land. It is after the Mughals invaded India, the Babri mosque was built in Ayodhya. The dispute has spanned the Mughal regime, British rule and the present Constitutional age.
i) The land in dispute is a part of Ramkot village in Pargana Haveli Avadh , Ayodhya in the District of Faizabad.
ii) The disputes in these petitions are from four regular appeals which were filed from 1949 and 1989.
iii) On December 17, 1949, The Nirmohi Akhara filed a suit seeking possession of the site and claimed to be the owner of the disputed site.
iv) On December 18, 1961, The Sunni Central Board of Waqf also filed a suit and claimed to be the custodian of the land.
v) An old structure stood at the disputed site till 6th December 1992.
vi) The Hindu parties claimed that their stood a temple dedicated to Lord Ram which was destroyed during the Mughal invasion of India.
vii) On the contrary, the Muslim parties claimed that Babur, the Mughal emperor who invaded India built the mosque on a vacant place (hence the name Babari Masjid).
viii) The Narasimha Rao Government acquired 68 acres of land including the disputed area under the Ayodhya Acquisition Act, 1993.
ix) By the said Act, all the suits relating to those 68 acres of land would diminish.
x) The hon’ble President of India made a reference to the High Courtunder the Article 143 of the Constitution.
xi) The reference was on whether a Hindu temple or a religious structure existed prior to the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi or Babri Masjid.
xii) Writ petitions were filed before the High Court of Allahabad challenging the constitutional validity of the Ayodhya Acquisition Act, 1993.
xiii) The constitutional bench of Hon’ble Allahabad High Court in it decision dated 24th October 1994 held that section 4(3) which provided for abatement of all pending suits to be unconstitutional. However, the rest of the Act was held to be valid.
xiv) The Allahabad High Court gave directions to ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) to carry out scientific investigation of the disputed land on 23rd October 2002.
xv) On 5th March 2003, the hon’ble Court also ordered the ASI to carryout excavation at the disputed site.
xvi) On 30th September 2010, the Full Bench of the High Court consisting of Justice S.U. Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal nad Justice DV Sharma after going through 533 exhibits and the statements of 87 witnesses compiling into 13,990 pages delivered the judgement.
xvii) The Court also went through a 1000 reference books in multiple languages including Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, Turkish, French and English.
xviii) The High Court held that the inner courtyard where the dome stood will go to the diety, The Ram Chabutara and Sita Rasoi went to the Nirmohi Akhara and the third part will be given to the Muslim Party.
xix) The Court also asked all the three parties to give entry and exit rights to each other.
xx) A plea for reconsideration was filed in the Allahabad High Court which was rejected on 27th September 2018 by a majority of 2:1.
xxi) Hence, all the three parties moved to the Supreme Court.
xxii) By an executive order dated 8th January 2019 made pursuant to the provisions of Order VI Rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules, a Constitution bench was formed to hear the appeals.
xxiii) On 26th February 2019, the Supreme Court referred the parties to mediation.
xxiv) On 8th March 2019 a panel of mediators comprising Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mr. Sriram Panchu and Justice Fakkir Mohammed was constituted.
xxv) As no settlement could be reached by the parties, the commencement of hearing was scheduled to commence from 6th August 2019.
xxvi) Interestingly, the legal personality of the plaintiff, Bhagwan Sriram Virajman represented by physical idols was not contested by any of the parties.
3. WHAT WERE THE FOUR SUITS THAT WERE APPEALED?
i) SUIT 1: The suit 1 was instituted by Gopal Singh Visharad by which the worshipper of Lord Ram for enforcement of his Right to worship at the Ramjanmabhoomi.
ii) SUIT 2 : Suit 2 was filed by the Nirmohi Akhara for handing over the management and charge of the Janmabhumi temple to it.
iii) SUIT 3: Suit 3 was filed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board is for a declaration that the entire site including the mosque and surrounding graveyard is a public mosque and should be in the Board’s possession.
iv) SUIT 4: Suit 4 is an interesting one as it is filed by the deity Lord Ram and the Janmasthan (both of whom are judicial persons) via a next friend as a third plaintiff. The suit is instituted for declaration that the whole disputed site is Ram janmabhoomi. The suit also pleads for an injunction against the interference of construction of a new temple after the demolition of the existing building.
4. ISSUES TO BE DECIDED:
i) Whether suits 2, 3, 4 are barred because of the Limitation clause?
ii) Whether suits 1, 2 and 4 are res judicata barred (res judicata= matter already decided upon)?
iii) Whether a Hindu temple existed at the site?
iv) Whether Babur demolished the temple and built a mosque?
v) Whether mosque was built by the remains after the demolition of the temple?
vi) Whether the Allahabad High Court was justified in passing its order of three way division of the disputed site in equal shares?
vii) Whether Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman and Asthan Shri Ram Janam Bhumi are juristic person or not?
5. RATIONALE ON WHICH THE JUDGEMENT WAS PRONOUNCED
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India delivered the judgement on the rationale of Secularism. The Court stated that Secularism is thus more than a passive attitude of religious tolerance. It is a positive concept of equal treatment of all religions.
6. OBSERVATIONS OF THE HON’BLE SUPREME COURT ON ARGUMENTS
i) The disputed property is one composite property. The railing put up in 1856-57 did not make any difference or bring about the division of the land.
ii) The Sunni Waqf Board has not been able to establish the case of dedication by a user.
iii) The Sunni Waqf board has not been able to meet the requirements of adverse possession.
iv) The Hindus have worshipped in the outer courtyard and have unimpeded possession of the outer courtyard.
v) The inner site is claimed by both the Hindu and the Muslim communities.
vi) The existence of the mosque until 6th December 1992 does not admit any argument.
vii) The argument that the mosque did not abide by the Islamic ways stands rejected.
viii) The evidence is clearly indicative that Namaz was observed on Fridays towards December 1949 and the last Namaz was on 16th December 1949.
ix) The Hindus have established a possession of outer courtyard by virtue of long, continued and unimpeded worship.
7. JUDGEMENT OF THE SUPREME COURT
On October 16th, 2019 the Supreme Court finally concluded the hearing of India’s one of the oldest property suits and reserved its judgement which was passed on November 9 2019.
The highest Court of the country unanimously gave a verdict giving the ownership of the disputed 2.77 acre of land to the “Ram Janmabhoomi Trust”.
The Supreme Court also directed an alternative piece of land in a suitable and prominent place to be given to the Muslims to build a mosque.
The Court also directed the government to frame a plan within three months and set up a trust, which would construct a temple in Ayodhya.
The Supreme Court has yet again proved that it is an institution that has always come to the rescue at the times of crisis. The people of the country have also shown solidarity with the order of Supreme Court. On one side where the whole world was expecting communal violence in our country after the verdict, the people of India have presented a true example of unity in diversity by maintain peace and harmony.