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Ayodhya Title Suit – the Verdict and its fall out

Shanthi Rajagopal

The Babri Masjid Controversy

The Ayodhya issue is a political, historical and socio-religious debate. The controversial issue of Ram Janambhoomi and Babri Masjid has always been a big influence on Indian politics for several decades.

The main issues revolve around access to the birthplace of the Hindu God Rama, the history and location of the Babri Mosque at the site, and whether a previous Hindu temple was demolished or modified to create the mosque.

The tension started with the Mughal emperor Babur, who entered India after defeating Hindu King Rana Sangram Singh in 1527. Babur made his General Mir Banki in-charge of the area. Banki visited Ayodhya in 1528 and reportedly built a mosque destroying a Hindu Temple.

The first Hindu-Muslim riot broke out over the issue in 1853 during British Rule. Following the clashes, the then British Government erected fences around the place to divide the Hindu-Muslim worship area. Muslims were allowed to offer prayers in the inner part of the mosque and Hindus to worship outer side of the disputed construction.

In the year 1949, both the communities moved the Court claiming ownership of the land. Later, the Faizabad District Magistrate declared the place as disputed land and locked the main door of Babri Masjid.

On January 16, 1950, one Gopalsingh Visharad filed a petition in Faizabad District Court seeking rights for Hindus to visit their Lord and offer pujas to Rama.

In a retaliating suit, the Babri Masjid side also filed a petition on February 21, 1950, claiming that the land should be handed over to Muslims because structure was built by Babur’s General Mir Banki in 1528. The furious Hindus held massive demonstrations outside the Court against the petition.

In the year 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara had filed a claim petition in the Court and requested transfer of land from the receiver.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) formed a committee to build Ram Temple at disputed place in Ayodhya in 1984. Later on February 1, 1986, the Court granted permission to Hindus to offer pujas at Babri masjid on a petition filed by one Umesh Chandra Pandey.

The judge ruled that the temple be opened for unrestrained Hindu worship. Subsequently, the Vishwa Hindu Parihad started a nationwide campaign for the replacement of the existing mosque-turned temple with a proper temple structure.

Just after the Court’s verdict in favour of Hindus, the Muslim community formed Babri Masjid Sangharsh Samiti to fight for the place.

The Ayodhya issue was intensified in 1989 following the VHP’s move to lay down foundation stone for Ram Temple at the controversial monument on November 11, 1989.

In the year 1990, the then Prime Minister Mr. Chandrashekhar tried to find out the solution through dialogue but the outcome was zilch.

On December 6, 1992 the Babri Masjid structure was demolished by karsevaks, despite a commitment by the government to the Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed. More than 2000 people were killed in the riots following the demolition.

On December 16, 1992, the Liberhan Commission was set up by the Government of India to probe the circumstances that led to the demolition of Babri structure. It is the longest running commission in India’s history with 48 extensions granted by various governments.

In 1994, the Apex Court directed acquisition of 70 acres of land at disputed place and maintained the status quo till the final decision is made on the ownership of the land. In his order, the Supreme Court stated that it would not be in favour of democracy if the land was given to a particular community without ownership decision.

On June 30, 2009, Liberhan Commission submitted its finding before the Prime Minister but the report has not been made public yet.

On 23 November 2009 the Liberhan commission report was leaked to the media. The leaked report concluded that the demolition was planned by top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The hearing on the ownership of land was completed on July 25, 2010 and final verdict will be delivered by Special Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court on September 24, 2010.

Once again the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy has taken centre stage in the country. The debate over the ownership started off between Hindus and Muslims. State Governments have been on high alerts following the possible backlash after the verdict.

On the other hand, religious leaders once again swing into the action to take the mileage. In this series, former BJP leader Kalyan Singh visited the Ayodhya on September 16, 2010 along with 200 supporters.

The Central government also made an appeal to maintain calm and peace after the verdict. In its appeal government said that the verdict will not be final it will be one step forward to find out the permanent solution to the dispute.

Considering the sensitivity of Verdict, the Special Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court has called counsels of the both party to find out any possibility of amicable solution into the matter on September 17 2010.

In the lieu with past examples of Hindu-Muslim communal harmony, the High Court is hopeful about an out-of-court settlement to set another example of unity.

What are these title suits about?

The Lucknow High Court will rule on four title suits on 24.09.2010. The first suit was filed sixty years ago, on January 16, 1950, by Gopal Singh Visharad, asking for the right to worship. The court restrained the removal of idols, and allowed the worship to continue. The State of UP appealed against the injunction on April 24, 1950. In 1950, Ramchandra Paramhans filed another suit, but this was withdrawn later. In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara entered the fray and filed the third suit, asking for possession of the spot, doing away with the court-appointed receiver and claiming that it was the custodian for the spot at which Ram was supposedly born. On December 18, 1961, the UP Sunni Central Board of Waqfs moved in to claim possession. On July 1, 1989, another civil suit was filed in the name of Bhagwan Shree Ram Lalla Virajman for declaration and possession of the Masjid complex. All the four disputes were pending before a Faizabad court till 1989, but were later transferred on October 23, 1989, to a special bench of the Allahabad High Court.

Measures for Security

The government has decided to impose Section 144 of the CrPC (Prohibition of Assemblies and Processions) in the entire State on September 24, as a precautionary measure against untoward incidents that could arise after the Supreme Court verdict is delivered on the Ayodhya issue.

A high-level meeting of ministers, police and bureaucrats also decided to hold peace committee meets in sensitive areas on the day.

Home Minister’s Advice

Home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday the 22nd September 2010 stepped in with calls for a more mature and a more balanced approach to the judgement of the Allahabad high court in the four Ayodhya title suits scheduled to be delivered on Friday the 24th September, 2010.

Addressing a press conference, the Home Minister said the parties to the suits as well as the general public and the media should reserve their opinions on the judgement and not make any hasty pronouncements. “While the parties to the suits study the judgement and ponder over the next steps, I would appeal to the general public to receive the verdict of the court as the culmination of the legal process that deserves our respect and acceptance.”

There is concern in the government that forces on both sides of the religious aisle could use the “easy-to-offend” types in both communities to foment trouble over the judgement. The verdict presents a tricky situation for the Centre and Forces associated with the issue for a variety of reasons.
In the event of the verdict going in favour of those favouring a Mandir, they would immediately demand permission to construct the Ram temple. A major impediment in this will be the fact that 67 acres around the disputed site is in the possession of the Union government.

The temple advocates could pile up pressure on the government to enact a Law to hand over the acquired land to the temple trust. But this is certain to be contested by Muslims.

In the event of the verdict favouring the Masjid votaries, there would be calls to immediately correct a ‘historic wrong’ and hand over the site to the Babri committee. As the next legal step is available to the losing party, the latter is sure to approach the higher judiciary for relief.

Any intervention that would delay the transfer of the land is certain to provide an opening to community members to invoke ‘victimhood politics’ — despite the court’s order, justice was being denied to them.

Realising the challenge posed by the verdict fallout, Mr Chidambaram said that it would be inappropriate to reach any hasty conclusion that one side has won or that the other side has lost.

“It would be reasonable to assume that one or both sides would immediately apply to the special bench of the high court for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court on the issues that either side may think have been decided against it.

Article 134 (A) of the Constitution allows a party aggrieved to make an oral application in this regard immediately after the passing of the judgement,” the home minister said.

Plea for deferment of case

Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, one of the litigants in the Ayodhya land title dispute case approached the Supreme Court for deferment of the high court decision. A three judge bench of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had on September 17 dismissed Tripathi’s application for deferring the verdict, scheduled for September 24, holding that the same lacks cogent and substantial grounds and also imposed a Rs. 50,000/- cost on him.

Petitioner’s counsel Sunil Jain in the Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court argued that the decision pertaining to the Ayodhya land title dispute needs to be deferred in view of the impending Commonwealth games and the security implications it may pose. The petition also states that parties to the dispute must be given some more time to arrive at an amicable solution. Further arguing that the Uttar Pradesh government has not been given the required central forces as requested, Jain contended that this can result in the State government’s inability to control any untoward incident or violence post decision of the High Court.

Inviting the Court’s attention to the dissenting judgement by Justice Dharam Veer Sharma of the three judge bench at the High Court the petition argued that the case must be seen in the light that the order of the High Court lacked consensus. On the point of cost imposed on Tripathi, it has been argued that in the dissenting opinion the Judge clearly stated that “There is no provision under the law through which a penalty of Rs. 50,000/- can be imposed for making the application to relegate the matter for mediation under section 89 Civil Procedure Code”.

Justice Altamas Kabir however refused to hear the matter on the ground that the assigned roster does not allow his bench to hear the petition. Justice Kabir stated that it was for the Registrar with the permission of the Chief Justice to assign an appropriate bench to hear the case. Justice Kabir stated, “I am not entitled to determine civil suits as per the roster”.

The Verdict was slated on 24.09.2010

The verdict is awaited for September 24th, 2010. Over a lakh uniformed men have been brought in to police every corner of Ayodhya , Faizabad , Lucknow and 19 other sensitive areas in the State. The High Court will decide that day on whom the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid land belongs to? And was the Masjid built over a temple? It’s been one of India’s most divisive and sensitive disputes.

Not wanting to take any chances the Mayavathi government has banned all peace rallies – protest rallies and distribution of sweets post the verdict. Entry into the premises of the Lucknow High Court where the verdict will be delivered on 24.09.2010 has been restricted – the registrar has asked lawyers who don’t have a case on the 24th September 2010 not to come to High Court. Not just that, security for the three judges who will read out the historic Babri verdict has been doubled.

Rumour mongering – a big worry for the State government has been taken care of by the Center. Mass SMS’ and MMS have been banned till the 27.09.2010 across the country. While Home Minister P Chidambaram has asked all Governments of all the States to be on high alert, the Karnataka Government has gone a step ahead ordering all schools to be shut on the 24th and 25th September, 2010. These two days will also be dry days in the State.

If the verdict goes in favour of Babri mosque, it will definitely hurt Hindus sentiments. Muslims will feel the heat of partiality if it goes against them.

It seems no conclusion of this dispute in the both circumstances. However, meeting and discussion are on to douse the fire calmly but it will be important to see next development after the court verdict.

SC stays Ayodhya title suit verdict for one week – 23.09.2010

The Supreme Court on 23.09.2010 stayed for a week the Ayodhya title suit verdict that was due to be pronounced by Allahabad High Court on 24.09.2010 and will hear the plea for deferment of the judgement next 28.09.2010.

The Court issued notices to the contesting parties on the petition filed by retired bureaucrat Ramesh Chand Tripathi challenging the order of the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court order refusing to defer the verdict in the 60—year—old Ram Janambhoomi—Babri Masjid title suit dispute.

A Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhale stayed the verdict for a week following conflicting views over the issue of entertaining the petition challenging the High Court order.

Tripathi, in his plea before the apex court, claimed that the verdict might disturb communal harmony and lead to violence in the country. In the petition filed through advocate Sunil Jain, he cited several reasons for deferment of the verdict, which he said would be in “public interest” in view of the apprehension of communal flare up, upcoming Commonwealth Games, elections in Bihar and violence in Kashmir Valley and Naxal—hit states. The petition had feared that there would be inadequate security personnel in Uttar Pradesh to provide security.

Chief Justice to head bench on plea to defer Ayodhya verdict – 25.09.2010

A three judge bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia will on 28.09.2010 decide the fate of the special leave petition seeking deferment of the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya title suit. Besides the Chief Justice, the bench would include Justices Aftab Alam and K.S. Radhakrishnan. The matter has been listed as the first item on the agenda at 10.30 a.m on 28.09.2010. The court had also asked Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati to be present and assist the Supreme Court.

The special hearing on 28.09.2010 assumed considerable importance in view of the fact that one of the three judges of the Ayodhya bench in Lucknow — Justice D.V. Sharma — is due to demit office on October 1, 2010.

CJI replaces Justice Kumar with Justice Aftab Alam for Ayodhya Case -26.09.2010

CJI S H Kapadia heads the Bench in Supreme Court Number 1 of Supreme Court, also known as Chief Justice’s Court, and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar sit with him almost regularly.

But, with the Apex Court due to hear the Ayodhya matter which can have repercussions for Hindu-Muslim equations, the CJI appears to have put into practice the oft-recited adage — “justice should not only be done, but also appear to be done” — and drafted in Justice Aftab Alam in place of Justice Kumar for the crucial hearing on 28.09.2010.

Supreme Court stay goes; High Court to deliver Judgement on Sep, 30 2010

The Allahabad High Court verdict in Babri Masjid-Ramjanma Bhoomi title suit will be pronounced on September 30, 2010 at 3.30 pm. The three-member bench decided to deliver judgment after the Supreme Court rejected the application of one of the defendants Ramesh Chandra Tripathi for the deferment of verdict in case on 28.09.2010. The Supreme Court lifting the stay on the verdict granted on September 23, 2010 cleared the decks for the High Court the judgment. With three days left for the retirement of Justice Sharma, the court has now decided to deliver the verdict on September 30, 2010.

Ayodhya land to be divided into three parts – Allahabad High Court – 30.09.2010

A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court on 30.09.2010 ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya where a makeshift temple was built after razing the Babri mosque in 1992 was Lord Ram’s birthplace.

However, it ruled that the land be split among three contesting parties equally. Justices S U Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and D V Sharma delivered a split verdict in 60-year old Ayodhya title suit filed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board. The majority of the bench ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya was a joint property, held by all the three claimants namely Hindu Mahasabha, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Central Waqf Board.

The majority also ruled that the central dome of the disputed structure, where idols of Lord Ram are presently kept in the makeshift temple, be allotted to Hindus. Justice Khan ruled that the mosque was built by Babar, not by demolishing a temple, but on the ruins of a temple.

Justice Sharma categorically rejected the claim of Sunni Central Waqf Board and has ruled that the ‘disputed site is the birth place of Lord Rama’.

However, the entire bench was of the view that the central dome of the disputed structure goes to Hindu Mahasabha, where idols were installed in 1949 and again in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Mosque. The sita rasoi and ram chabootara have been given to Nirmohi Akhara.

The judges said that none of the litigants would take any action on the land for the next three months.

Lawyers K N Bhat and Ravi Shankar Prasad, who represented two of the Hindu litigants, announced to reporters that the bench had decided that Lord Ram was born where the Babri mosque was built.

“All the three judges, including S U Khan, are unanimous in accepting that the idol of Ram cannot be removed from the place where it is installed right now,” said lawyer and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad in Lucknow after the court verdict.

The bench invited suggestions from all the parties for demarcation of the land.

The bench delivered the verdict in Court No 21, where entry of only 47 persons including the litigants and their counsels was allowed. The High Court had been totally fortified. Uttar Pradesh almost came to a virtual halt at 3.30 p.m., when the historical judgment was being delivered.

What the Judges said:

Justice S U Khan

“Disputed structure was constructed as mosque by or under orders of Babar. It is not proved by direct evidence that premises in dispute including constructed portion belong to Babar or the person who constructed the mosque. No temple was demolished for constructing the mosque, but it was constructed on the ruins of the temple or some of its material was used in the construction of the mosque.”

Justice Sudhir Agarwal

“It is declared that the area covered by the central dome of the three domed structure, the disputed structure being the deity of Bhagwan Ram Janma Sthan and place of birth of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of the Hindus, belong to plaintiff- Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman. and shall not be obstructed or interfered in any manner by the defendants, Rajendra Singh and others.”

Justice Dharam Veer Sharma

“The disputed site is the birth place of Lord Rama. Disputed building was constructed by Babar, the year is not certain, but it was built against the tenets of Islam. Thus it cannot have the character of a mosque. The disputed structure was constructed on the site of old structure after demolition of the same. The ASI has proved that the structure was a massive Hindu religious structure. The idols were placed in the middle dome of the disputed structure in the intervening night of 22/23 December 1949.”

Muslim groups disappointed

Muslim groups on 30.09.2010 reacted with disappointment to the dismissal of the Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB) suit and the three-way division of disputed land ordered by the Allahabad High Court in the Ayodhya title suits.

SCWB lawyer Zafaryab Jilani said the Board, the main litigant on behalf of Muslims, will appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court: “The High Court’s formula of one-third land is not acceptable to the Waqf Board and it will go to the Supreme Court.”

He, however, added that the matter would come to a “full stop” with Muslims accepting the decision once the apex court gave its final verdict. He also said he was gladdened by the mature and calm response of the people to the verdict. “What is important is that we as a nation have matured. This reflects the faith of the people in the Constitution.”

Hindu Mahasabha to challenge ruling

The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, one of the early litigants in the Ayodhya title suits, on 30.09.2010 said it would challenge the Allahabad High Court order to divide the “Ramjanambhoomi” land in three parts.

“We have decided to challenge the decision to divide the Ramjanambhoomi land in three parts”, said State president of ABHM Kamlesh Tiwari. “Our fight for the Ramjanmbhoomi was acknowledged by the entire bench unanimously”, he said.

He said the legal battle was initiated by Mahasabha president of Faizabad Gopal Singh Visharad in Janauary 16, 1950.

Dream Dare Win

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