In the long protracted dispute of the Ayodhya Temple Babri Masjid case, the Supreme Court of India has delivered its judgement – the Ayodhya verdict. Ina unanimous judgement by five judges of the apex court headed by the chief justice Rajan Gogoi, ownership of the disputed holy site of Ayodhya in northern India has been awarded to Hindus to build a temple there.
The bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer, S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan ruled possession of the disputed 2.77 acre land rights will be handed over to the deity Ram Lalla, (baby Lord Rama) who was one of the three parties in the case. Deity Ram Lalla or baby Lord Rama represented by Triloki Nath Pandey.
The court has ruled while the ownership will vest in Deity Ram Lalla, the possession will remain with a central government receiver. The central government has three months to put the framework in place.
For Muslims, the Court has ruled that they be given 5 acres of alternate land in Ayodhya to build their mosque.
Although some media agencies are reporting ‘mixed’ reactions by Muslims, generally the verdict has been well received and is being seen as “win for the people of India”.
The Muslim group, party to the proceeding, according to Hindustan Times, has said, will not appeal the decision.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the judgment tweeting:
“Every point of view was given adequate time and opportunity to express differing points of view. This verdict will further increase people’s faith in judicial processes,” he said in a tweet.
Primary basis of the decision
Sifting through the maze of religious, cultural, political and societal pressure arguments, the court, in the judgement running into 1,045 pages, refers to a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which it said provided evidence of the remains of a building “that was not Islamic” beneath the demolished mosque.
The bench noted that the faith of Hindus that Ram was born at the site of the now-razed masjid is undisputed.
The Court also recognized the existence of structures like Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar Griha as testimony to the religious facts of the place.
The position the Court was taking was perhaps more securely premised on the scientific evidence of the report of the ASI led by the prosecuting team on behalf of the Deity Lord Ram Lalla and not on other peripheral and emotive things, the five judges noted that the title cannot be established on the ground of faith and belief and they are only indicators for deciding the dispute.
To a sharp legal mind, the bench was appeal-proofing the judgement in the case which has already taken far too long and far too much of the country’s time.
In the same vein it can be said that the Court’s finding that the demolition of the masjid was ‘against the rule of law’.
To those simpleton minds who might find a direct conflict between the decision of the Court in favour of Deity Lord Ram Lalla and the court saying the demolition was against the rule of law – the court has provided its main substantive premise of the report of the ASI.
In other words, the Court has accepted that the masjid was built on, in a layman’s language, a temple or Hindu place of worship and thus the ownership now must return to its rightful owners. The court has found that the masjid was built on a structure “that was not Islamic”. It has also found “clear” evidence of a place of worship by the Hindus.
Other supporting findings
Recording its other supplementary and supporting observations, the Court has also found:
“On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it.”
The Court further added:
“As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century.”
And then clarifying the act of demolition was against the law, the Court observed:
“Justice would not prevail if the court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law.”
Five Acres of Ayodhya land for the Muslim community
The Court, in lieu of 2.77 acres of the disputed land, ordered that either the Central Government or the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh should allot five acres of land in Ayodhya to the Sunni Central Waqf Board. The Court said:
“Having weighed the nature of the relief which should be granted to the Muslims, we direct that land measuring five acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya.”
Asaduddin Owaisi has expressed his disappointment with the judgement saying the Supreme Court is “definitely Supreme” but not “infallible”. Speaking to the BBC Hindi, he extrapolated his feelings.
Decision of Allahabad High Court 2010: – the Three Way Split
Keen observing followers of this dispute would remember the Allahabad High Court, on September 30, 201 had ruled that the disputed land be split into three parts: the site of the Ram Lalla idol would go to the party representing Ram Lalla Virajman (the installed infant Ram deity), Hindu ascetics’ outfit Nirmohi Akhara to get Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, and the Sunni Waqf Board to get the rest. All three parties then appealed against the decision in the Supreme Court.
While the appeal was pending before the Supreme Court, the parties continued, unsuccessfully through mediation, to arrive at an out of court settlement.
The matter then of course progressed to the hearing in the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. On October 16, the Supreme Court concluded hearing 40 days of arguments on the pleas and reserved its judgement which was delivered on Saturday, November 11, 2019.
Nirmohi Akhara – the Biggest Losers?
The judgement, as it stands now, as far as the ownership of assets is concerned, the Nirmohi Akhara are the biggest losers. They lose Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra etc. they had won as per Allahabad High Court judgement of 2010. Not only their claims for more have been dismissed, the Court having dismissed their case by reasons of limitation, they have lost all claims to ownership as the whole site has been awarded to Deity Lord Ram Lalla.
However via the Ayodhya verdict the Court has directed the Central Government to allow them ‘appropriate’ representation in the new Trust or body to be formed. The Court said:
“In exercise of the powers vested in this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution, we direct that in the scheme to be framed by the Central Government, appropriate representation may be given in the Trust or body, to the Nirmohi Akhara in such manner as the Central Government deems fit”.
In the interest of the nation and all the people of India, one would hope, this is the end of Ayodhya dispute.
You can read full 1045 pages Ayodhya verdict here.