The Ayodhya dispute regarding who owns the property in which the now demolished Babri Mosque stood, which is claimed by certain Hindu groups as the birthplace of Lord Ram and where they want to construct a temple, is the oldest, longest and most controversial litigation in India. It started as suit number 61/280 in the year 1885 by Mahant Raghubar Das and was dismissed by the trial court. The court noted that granting rights for construction of the temple would result in riots between Hindus and Muslims. According to the Hindu groups, Babri Masjid was constructed over a demolished Ram temple in 1528.
In 1949, an idol of Ram was put inside the mosque and its gates were closed. No Islamic religious offerings were allowed. In 1961, the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs filed a suit for removal of the idol of Ramlala (a child form of Ram). In 1985, the Ram Janma Bhoomi movement - to build a temple in that site - gathered momentum. In 1989, after 37 years, the district court in Faizabad gave permission to the Hindus to worship the idol of Ramlala that was placed in the mosque. Muslims protested and the Babri Mosque Action Committee was formed.
In 1989, a former judge of the Allahabad High Court, Deokinandan Agarwal filed a suit before the Civil Judge of Faizabad to hand over the site for construction of a Ram temple. In 1992, lakhs of karsevaks (volunteers under the patronage of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and backed by the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh and BJP leaders demolished the structure of the Babri mosque and placed an idol Ramlala in a makeshift temple. This caused wide spread communal clashes and bloodshed. Subsequently, the Allahabad High Court allowed darshan (visiting the temple to see and pray to the idol of Ramlala) with specific directions for safe preservation of the historical objects.
In 1993, the central government acquired the disputed land of around 67.073 acres. The Supreme Court held it valid. In 2003, the Supreme Court ordered that no religious activity can take place in the disputed site. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ordered that the disputed land be divided into three parts to be given to Ram Lala, the Sunni Waqf Board and to the Nirmohi Akhara. This judgment was challenged in the Supreme Court.
In 2018, the Supreme Court formed a five judge bench to hear the appeals which were heard from August 6, 2019. After the conclusion of the hearing process, the matter is now fixed for judgment on November 17, 2019 after mutual settlement among the contending parties failed before the three mediators appointed by the Supreme Court.
Issues to be settled
Four issues may arise in the Supreme Court judgment. Firstly, the Supreme Court may decide it as a matter of title based on adverse possession by the Hindus. Secondly, the Supreme Court may entertain the right of idol Ramlala as a legal entity like the Allahabad High Court and may uphold the judgment of the Allahabad High Court. Thirdly, the Supreme Court may send the matter for further hearing by the Allahabad High Court on points to be mentioned by the Supreme Court. Fourthly, the Supreme Court may leave the matter to be decided by the central government as they are the custodian of the acquired disputed land.
After the Supreme Court Judgment
It is most likely that all parties will be satisfied with the judgment of the Supreme Court which will be delivered after lot of deliberations. The public has over the years reposed its faith in the Supreme Court and its impartiality. Already, many members of the Muslim community have come out in public stating that they will accept the Supreme Court’s judgment; whatever it may be. It is expected that members and leaders of the Hindu community will show magnanimity at this crucial juncture and also accept the Supreme Court’s verdict. However, splinter groups or trouble makers, who are small in number, need to be tackled by the administration. If the dispute creates law and order problems, the administration should make foolproof arrangements to tackle it in the bud.
If the judgment is delivered purely from a legal point of view, then continuation of the litigation through subsequent appeals may be on the cards. In that case, the Corrective Writ provision may be pushed into action by legal mandarins. It is hoped that good sense will prevail among the concerned parties to accept the Supreme Court’s verdict.
Dr. P. K. Agrawal, a retired IAS officer, is the writer of sixty five books including his three books on the Constitution of India. At present, he is the managing partner of the New Delhi-based law firm VAS GLOBAL.