Ayodhya (Babri Masjid/ Ram Janambhoomi)
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Babri Masjid demolition: Timeline of events and aftermath | By Mid-day online correspondent | 06-Dec-2016 |Mid-day, which is almost identical to:
With additional inputs from Q&A: The Ayodhya dispute |5 December 2012| BBC
Map of structure as it stood before demolition
Summary: Accounts of Europeans suggest both worshipped pre-1857
PCarnegy is not a name that will ring a bell in contemporary India. But this Britisher, an assistant commissioner of the Raj in Faizabad in the 1860s, is among those who played, unwittingly, a key role in providing champions of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement substantive material to make the case that Hindus had launched their struggle for the ‘janmasthan’ in Ayodhya much before the Ram Lalla idol was installed in 1949.
Writing a historical sketch of ‘Fyzabad’, as he spelt it, Carnegy wrote that until 1855, the year in which communal violence broke out in Ayodhya over possession of Hanuman Garhi and the ‘janmasthan’, “Hindus and Muslims alike used to worship in the mosque-temple.” But “since British rule (in 1858, that is) a railing has been put up to prevent disputes, within which in the mosque the Mahomedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings.”
Carnegy wasn’t the first to point to “joint worship” in the inner yard. That credit goes to Austrian Jesuit priest Joseph Tieffenthaler who visited Awadh circa 1770 and recorded that 12 “koti and kasauti” pillars supported the Babri Masjid’s interior arcades and that there stood a square box called the “bedi” or cradle at the entrance, “where Vishnu took incarnation as Ram”. Tieffenthaler’s theory was that it wasn’t Babar or Mir Baqi in 1528 but Aurangzeb in the 17th century who had destroyed the shrine “to deprive Hindus of their faith”. Yet, the Jesuit priest wrote, Hindus still came to the spot to do their circumambulation and prostrated.
The first to refer to an inscription inside the masjid which stated it was built in 1528 by Babar’s chieftain Mir Baqi was F C Buchanan, physician of Lord Wellesley, who visited Ayodhya between 1807 and 1814. And the first legal record came in 1822, when a superintendent in Faizabad court, Hafizullah, submitted his report in Persian saying “the mosque founded by emperor Babur is situated at the Janmasthana”, “adjacent to the kitchen of Sita”.
After that, records about the dispute and about the persistent Hindu claim to the disputed site piled up quickly, with other European travellers following in Tieffenthaler’s footsteps and British officials such as A F Millet taking the path trodden by Carnegy.
Millet, a land revenue officer of Faizabad district, stated in his report of 1880 that Hindus and Muslims had worshipped “alike” inside the structure, and the writer-traveller Edward B Eastwick recorded in his ‘Handbook of the Bengal Presidency’ in 1888 that before 1858, namaz and puja were both performed inside the shrine.
The British officials of the period demonstrated the opposite of the well-known Indian disregard for documentation. The gazetteers of 1854, 1881, 1892, 1905, the Archaeological Survey Report of 1891 and later archaeological and general survey reports of the 1930s reinforced the theory of the mosque having been constructed after demolishing a temple and of intermittent Hindu efforts to get the spot back. The archaeological report of 1891 by A Fuhrer, who translated three inscriptions inside the mosque, corroborated Buchanan’s view that it was Mir Baqi who “by the order of Babar” had built the mosque circa 1520 “on the very spot where the old temple Janmasthanam of Ramchandra was standing”. The old temple, Fuhrer said, “must have been a very fine one, for many of its columns have been used by the Musalmans in the construction of Babar’s masjid”.
A police complaint launched by the muezzin of the Babri Masjid in November 1858 too became part of the ‘janmabhoomi’ docket for the protemple side. Syed Muhammad Khatib, who used to call the faithful to prayer in the mosque, had written to local cops a year after the 1857 revolt that a Nihang Sikh, a Bairagi (ascetic), was “on the rampage at the Janmasthan.” He had forcibly built a “chabutra in the middle of the Babri mosque” and had raised the platform and placed a flag, a picture and an idol, the muezzin complained, urging authorities to get the construction demolished and oust Hindus from the place, where, earlier, the “nishaan of Janmasthan lay for hundreds of years and Hindus used to do puja.”
These documents were put forward by the Hindu side in the post-1985 VHP (and later BJP) agitation phase to buttress their case.
The Janam Sakhis of Guru Nanak Dev
The SC verdict that settled the Ayodhya dispute has a historical nugget tucked away in its 1,045 pages that many might not have known about — the Sikh connection in what has been seen as a Hindu-Muslim tussle.
An evidence that helped strengthen the Hindu side’s claim to the disputed site was the visit by Guru Nanak Dev to Ayodhya for Ram Janmabhoomi darshan in 1510-11 AD. Babri Masjiddid not come up until after the 1526 Battle of Panipat.
More than three centuries later, in 1857, a Nihang Sikh barged inside the mosque and occupied it for a considerable amount of time, even setting up a platform on which an idol of Lord Ram was placed. With a posse of 25 Sikhs standing guard outside, the Nihang Sikh lit a fire and started arrangements for puja, leading to the first recorded instance of friction between Hindus and Muslims over the structure. The Nihang Sikh scrawled “Ram” on the walls of the mosque, according to police complaint.
The addenda to verdict bring on record the Janam Sakhis, or writings that profess to be biographies of Guru Nanak Dev. On the question of “whether the disputed structure is the birthplace of Lord Ram according to belief of Hindu devotees”, the SC says there is no material to identify the exact place of Ram Janmabhoomi. But it recognises the visit of Guru Nanak Dev to Ayodhya as an event depicting visits by pilgrims even before 1528 AD.
The judgment says, “It is found that in period prior to 1528 AD, there were sufficient religious texts, which led Hindus to believe the present site of Ram Janmabhoomi as birthplace of Lord Ram.”
One of the witnesses in suit number 4, during his examination in Allahabad HC, had referred to books on Sikh cult and history. He said Guru Nanak Dev had sought darshan at the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple. To his statement, he appended various Janam Sakhis documenting the visit of Guru Nanak Dev to Ayodhya.
The verdict also traces a second event that occurred against the backdrop of 1857 transfer of power, when complaints sent to the Oudh administration (as Ayodhya and nearby areas were then referred to) reported the presence of Sikhs. A complaint in 1860 to deputy commissioner of Oudh said local Muslims were facing problems in performing namaz at the mosque. “The Azaan of Moazzin was met with the blowing of conch shells by Hindus. A contentious situation was arising. The Nihang Sikh was evicted from the site and a record was maintained,” SC notes, deducing that it showed namaz was at that stage being performed in the mosque.
That incident led to the installation of a railing in the form of a grill-brick wall outside the mosque. It was also the genesis of division of the complex into an inner courtyard (in which stood the structure of the mosque) and outer courtyard. “The construction of a railing in 1856-7 to provide a measure of separation between the inner and outer courtyards led to the construction of a platform by Hindus in close proximity to railing in outer courtyard. The platform, called Ramchabutra, became a place of worship for Hindus,” states the verdict.
History: 1527- 1992
The Indian city of Ayodhya, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is located 550 km east of New Delhi. The name Ayodhya means, “Not to be warred against,” [Or ‘The land without war’] (Reality Views)
The destruction of the 16th-century mosque in the town of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh was a break-point in the Hindu-Muslim fabric of the nation. While some say that the site where the mosque stood is the birthplace of Lord Ram, the issue has been raging from eons. Here is a timeline of how communalism threw modern India into jeopardy.
1527 or 1528: A mosque is built on the site which some Hindus say marks the spot where Lord Ram was born. Some have claimed an old Hindu temple was demolished and a mosque constructed at the same place in Ayodhya and named after Babur and hence the name Babri Masjid.
According to Reality Views The date of the construction of the Babri Mosque is disputed. Before the 1940s, the Mosque was called "Masjid-i Janmasthan".
1853: First recorded incidents of communal clashes at the site.
1859: British colonial administration erected a fence to separate the places of worship, allowing the inner court to be used by Muslims and the outer court by Hindus. This stood for 90 years.
1855: Hindus and Muslims clash over possession of the mosque. There are claims that Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabootara were built around this time (Reality Views)
1885: Mahant Raghubar Das files a suit seeking permission to build a canopy on Ram Chabootra (Reality Views)
The legal case: 1885- 2017
The juggernaut of litigation for ownership over 2.77 acres of Ayodhya land, where the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi disputed structure stood since 1528 till its demolition on December 6, 1992, is about to start rolling towards final destination in the Supreme Court.
But the question that stares the two communities — Hindus and Muslims — is whether the final adjudication on the title suits by the highest court of the land be able to bury the ‘more than century’ old dispute and bring peace between the communities? History has witnessed large-scale rioting and loss of lives because of polarisation over the issue in the last three decades.
Advocate Virag Gupta has published a compendium on Ayodhya case in courts giving insight to the birth of a small stream of litigation on Ayodhya land and how it grew into a big river over nearly two centuries. The strong undercurrents against the mosque was felt by the British in the 1850s and they fenced the structure in 1859.
In 1885, a suit seeking permission for constructing a Ram Temple at the disputed site was filed by Mahant Raghubar Das. The trial court rejected it fearing such permission could lead to riots. Appeals too were rejected. In 1934, a mob damaged parts of the disputed structure. The British repaired it. Muslims continued to offer prayer and Hindus worshipped at Ram-Chabutra and Kaushalya Rasoi.
On the intervening night of December 22-23, 1949, idol of Lord Ram was surreptitiously placed under the central dome of the disputed structure. Worship by devotees started in a big way from next morning. District authorities, fearing riots, sealed the premises immediately.
In 1950, two civil suits were filed — one by G S Visharad of Hindu Mahasabha claiming right to worship and second by Paramhans Ramachandra Das seeking to restrain administration from removing the idols. The trial court allowed worship and restrained the district authorities from removing the idols. The Allahabad high court confirmed the trial court’s interim orders in 1955.
In 1959, Nirmohi Akhara filed the third suit seeking right to worship idols under
the central dome and handing over of management of the disputed structure to a Hindu Mahant. Sunni Central Wakf Board filed the fourth suit in 1961 seeking removal of idols and possession of the disputed structure, but withdrew it in 1964. It was added as a defendant in the suit filed by Paramhans Ramchandra Das in 1989.
The White Paper on Ayodhya brought out by the Congress government led by P V Narasimha Rao in February 1993 said: “The Hindu idols thus continued inside the disputed structure since 1949. Worship of these idols by Hindus also continued without interruption since 1949 and the structure was not used by the Muslims for offering prayers since then.”
Another important turn to the roller-coaster journey of Ayodhya dispute took place in 1986, when the Faizabad district court ordered opening of the lock placed on the iron grill gate leading to the central dome of the disputed structure. Many believe the gates were opened at the behest of central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi.
Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) was formed and it launched protest movement seeking restoration of disputed structure to Muslims while Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) spearheaded the Hindu organisations and mobilised public for construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site. The title suits pending in Faizabad district court were transferred to Lucknow bench of Allahabad HC in 1989.
After December 6, 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid, the Ayodhya case got split into two — one, the title suits pending in Allahabad HC’s Lucknow bench and second, the criminal cases filed against top BJP leaders including L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi for exhorting the Kar Sevaks to raze down the disputed structure. The central government acquired the disputed structure and land surrounding it through a law in January 1993.
The Allahabad high court (Lucknow) bench of Justices S U Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and D V Sharma had considered archaeological evidence, which conclusively indicated that Babri Masjid was built on the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple. The HC divided the Ayodhya land equally between three parties — Ram Lalla (idol), Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Wakf Board.
The criminal case against BJP leaders too has entered its final phases with the Supreme Court on April 19, 2017 asking the trial court to proceed with the trial, which had been stalled for a long time, and conclude it within two years. That means, the trial court, if it does not seek extension of the two-year time period, would pronounce its verdict before April 19 this year.
While striking down acquisition of 2.77 acres of disputed Ayodhya land, on which the structure before demolition stood, and surrounding 67.703 acres of land, the SC in Ismail Faruqui case [1994 (6) SCC 360] had asked the Centre to act as Receiver of the two tracts of acquired land till final judgement on the title suits.
In the 1994 judgment, it had said:“We have no doubt that the moderate Hindu has little taste for the tearing down of the place of worship of another to replace it with a temple. It is our fervent hope that the moderate opinion shall find general expression and that communal brotherhood shall bring to the dispute at Ayodhya an amicable solution long before the courts resolve it.”
“Ayodhya is a storm that will pass”, the Supreme Court had hoped. It had been proved wrong. An amicable solution eludes the vexed issue. BMAC-VHP negotiations had reached a critical stage in the late 1980s before breaking down. Two years ago, then CJI J S Khehar had surprised many by offering to be the facilitator for a dialogue between the leaders of the two communities warring over the disputed land. But, little came out of it. The storm continues to threaten the communal harmony. It is doubtful whether the final judgment from the highest court would be able to tame the storm.
11 pm, December 22, 1949. Moments before Abhiram Das stood at the threshold of the temple at Ramghat, Ayodhya slept in peace. Although it was barely eleven in the night, the township, located at the edge of Faizabad, had passed into deep slumber. The night was cold, and a layer of still air covered Ayodhya like a blanket. Feeble strains of Ramakatha wafted in from the Ramachabutara. Perhaps the devotees keeping the story of Lord Rama alive were getting tired and sleepy. The sweet murmur of the Sarayu added to the deceptive calm.
The temple at Ramghat on the northern edge of Ayodhya was not very old. The initiative to erect it had been taken just a decade ago. But the enthusiasm did not appear to have persisted, and the construction had been halted halfway.
The structure remained small in size and the absence of the desperately required final touches made it look crude but for the grand, projecting front facade and the rooms on both sides of the garbhagriha. In the backyard was a mango grove, unkempt, untended. About a kilometre away, River Sarayu, the lifeline of Ayodhya, flowed along with sandy stretches on both sides of its shoreline.
Abhiram Das stumbled as he climbed the half-built brick steps, lost in the shadows of the dimly lit lamp hanging on the wall, but recovered and entered the side room of the temple. The Ramghat temple was the prized possession of Abhiram Das, who himself lived a kilometre away in a one-room tenement that formed part of the complex of Hanumangarhi, a fortress-like structure in the heart of Ayodhya.
Within the precincts of its imposing walls, there was an old, magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The circular bastions on each of the four corners of Hanumangarhi enhanced its structural elegance and artistic grandeur. Around the fortress and as part of the complex, there were rooms for sadhus, a Sanskrit pathshala and a huge, narrow stretch, where there was a gaushala, beside which Abhiram Das lived, close to the singhdwar of Hanumangarhi.
That, however, was only a night shelter for him. In his waking hours, Abhiram Das had innumerable engagements, and the temple at Ramghat always figured prominently among them. Not just because it was under his control, but because it housed his three younger brothers and four cousins, most of whom were enrolled with the Sanskrit pathshala in Hanumangarhi. Two of his cousins, Yugal Kishore Jha and Indushekhar Jha, as well as Abhiram’s younger brother, Upendranath Mishra, were students of Maharaja Intermediate College in Ayodhya.
Abhiram Das’s relatives lived in the rooms adjacent to the garbhagriha and survived on offerings made by devotees to Lord Rama. They cooked for Abhiram as well. Thrice a day, they would carry his food to his room, braving the scorching sun in summer, icy winds in winter, and downpours during the rainy season. Abhiram’s closeness to his extended family was unexpected in a sadhu. The ascetic in him often cautioned against such human weaknesses, but it had always been beyond him to transcend them.
Yet, visiting Ramghat temple that night was not part of his original plan as he set out to install the idol of Lord Rama inside the sixteenth-century mosque. Nor were his brothers and cousins used to seeing him at this odd hour in his second home. For, like any other sadhu, he was in the habit of going to bed and getting up early.
Indeed, it was awkward for Abhiram Das too. He had to change his original plan owing to the sudden disappearance of his friend Ramchandra Das Paramhans, who was supposed to accompany him in his surreptitious mission.
According to the plan, Paramhans was to arrive at the Hanumangarhi residence of Abhiram Das by 9 pm, after his meal. They were to go together to the Babri Masjid, where another sadhu, Vrindavan Das, was to join them with an idol of Lord Rama. The trio was then supposed to go inside the sixteenth-century mosque, plant the idol below its central dome and keep the deserted place of worship under their control till the next morning when a larger band of Hindu communalists would pour in for support. They had been strictly instructed that their entry into the mosque had to be completed at any cost before midnight — the time when there would be a change of guard at the gate of the mosque.
Every detail had been planned meticulously, and everything seemed to be moving accordingly, till Ramchandra Das Paramhans vanished from the scene. Forty-two years later, when none of those involved in planting the idol was alive to contradict him, Paramhans sought to appropriate history. “I am the very man who put the idol inside the masjid,” Paramhans declared in a news report that appeared in the New York Times on December 22, 1991.
However, on that fateful night of 1949 and for a few days thereafter, Paramhans went missing from the scene in Ayodhya. Indushekhar Jha who, together with Yugal Kishore Jha, followed Abhiram Das into the mosque, had this to say about Paramhans: “I saw Paramhans in the evening [of December 22, 1949]. Thereafter, he was not seen in Ayodhya for [the] next three days. Yet it was he who took maximum advantage from that incident…”
…As for the reason for his sudden decision to leave Ayodhya and participate in the conference instead of accompanying Abhiram Das, nothing can be said for sure except that he may have been apprehensive of the consequences of the act. On his part, Ramchandra Das Paramhans, after having taken credit in 1991 for installing the idol inside the Babri Masjid, preferred to remain silent on the issue till his death in 2003.
Back in those uncertain moments of 1949, Abhiram Das waited at his Hanumangarhi residence for Ramchandra Das Paramhans till around 10 pm, after which he left in search of his friend. Paramhans lived in a temple in the Ramghat locality of Ayodhya. It was quite close to the one inhabited by Abhiram Das’s brothers and cousins. But Paramhans was not to be found there. This made Abhiram rather less confident of accomplishing the task he had set out for. The strength he had was that of faith, without any rationale to go with it. But as the moment approached, the magnitude of the job, as well as its possible repercussions unfolded with a clarity that was missing till then. Wanting to prepare for any eventuality, he decided to give appropriate instructions to his brothers and cousins at the temple in Ramghat before proceeding on his journey towards the Babri Masjid.
With so much force did Abhiram Das enter the room that his cousin Awadh Kishore Jha felt that it was some wild animal blundering inside… While the occupants of the room were getting out of bed, Abhiram Das kept pacing up and down, quivering — apparently with the strength of the emotions stirring within him. In one hand, he held the long bamboo staff, while the other instinctively fumbled with the beads in the mala-jhola. As they got up, he asked his younger brother Upendranath Mishra to hold the hand of Yugal Kishore Jha, the eldest of his cousins there, and said, “Listen to me carefully. I am going and may never return. If something happens to me, if I don’t return till morning, Yugal will be my successor and in charge of this temple.” Yugal Kishore Jha pulled his hand back and stared at him incredulously. “What on earth are you up to, maharaj?” But Abhiram Das said nothing, nor did he look at anyone. Having put the succession issue in order, he was ready to resume his mission. He rushed out of the room and then the temple, and with rapid strides, dissolved into the darkness. His cousins Yugal Kishore Jha and Indushekhar Jha followed him, completely clueless about what was happening.
It took them hardly ten minutes to reach the spot. As they approached the open area near the Ramachabutara, another vairagi emerged from the dark corner of the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid. It was Vrindavan Das, a Ramanandi vairagi of the Nirvani Akhara, who lived in a thatched hut near the gate of the sixteenth-century mosque. A heavy cotton bag hung from his shoulder, and there was a small idol of Rama Lalla in his hands. Abhiram Das took the idol from Vrindavan Das and grasping it with both his hands, walked past him — as if he were not there — towards the wall that separated the inner courtyard around the Babri Masjid from the outer courtyard that contained the Ramachabutara. Vrindavan Das tried to ask him something in whispers, but Abhiram Das, appearing calmer now, once again took no notice of him.
Abhiram Das stood at the end of the pathway close to the inner courtyard, staring at the walls — his sole hurdle. Then, apparently addressing Vrindavan Das, he said, “Maharaj …” Vrindavan Das said nothing, just moved closer to him, eager not to miss any word of instruction that might come his way. “Maharaj,” said Abhiram Das again, this time coaxingly. He turned his head to look at him and said, “Follow me.” With these words, he held the idol firmly and began climbing the wall. Soon, he was straddling it.
Excerpted with permission from Ayodhya: The Dark Night ‒ The Secret History of Rama’s Appearance in Babri Masjid (published by HarperCollins India)
Dec 1949: Idols of Lord Ram appear inside mosque, allegedly placed there by Hindus. Hindu wing is also said to have allegedly said that the idols had miraculously appeared. Muslims protest resulting in both the parties filing civil suits. The government then declared the premises a disputed area and locked the gates. Police lodge FIR; city magistrate attaches mosque property and locks it The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
BBC adds: Muslims say they offered prayers at the mosque until December 1949, when some people placed the idols of Ram under the cover of darkness in the mosque. The worship of the idols began soon after. (End of BBC item)
Jan 1950: Gopal Singh Visharad and Mahant Paramhand Ramchandra Das file civil suits in Faizabad, asking for unlocking of Masjid premises and permission to offer prayers to the idols installed at Asthan Janmabhoomi. Inner courtyard gates are locked, but puja is allowed. (Reality Views) Ramchandra Das Paramahans, Mahant of Digambar Akhara, and Nirmohi Akhara later approach court with same demand The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
1959: Nirmohi Akhara and Mahant Raghunath file a case, claiming to be the sect responsible for conducting puja (Reality Views)
Feb 1961: Sunni Central Waqf Board.UP, challenges the 3 suits filed by Hindu side, declaring Babri Masjid property of the board. Hashim Ansari and 5 others join. Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, UP, claims the mosque and the surrounding land was a graveyard (Reality Views) The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
1984: Hindus form a committee to "liberate" the birth-place of Lord Ram and build a temple in his honour. The movement was spearheaded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to build a temple at the site, which they claimed was the birthplace of Lord Ram. It gathered momentum when they formed a committee to construct a temple at the Ramjanmabhoomi site. Then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani, took over leadership of campaign.
Feb 1986: Faizabad district judge Hari Shankar Pandey orders unlocking of gates of Babri Mosque after almost five decades in favour of Hindu parties and allowed Hindus to worship inside the 'disputed structure.' The gates were opened in less than an hour after the court decision. Muslims set up Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest against the move to allow Hindu prayers at the site. The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
1989: VHP steps up the campaign and proclaims that a Shilâ or a stone will be established for construction of temple near the area. In November, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad laid foundations of a temple on land adjacent to the 'disputed structure'. (Reality Views) adds: Former VHP vice-president Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal files a case, seeking the mosque be shifted elsewhere
1989 All cases of title suit go to HC. Triloki Nath Pandey becomes party, claiming himself as ‘best friend’ of Ram Lalla The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
1990: VHP volunteers partially damage the mosque. The then Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar tries to resolve the dispute through negotiations, which fail in 1991.
1991: BJP comes to power in Uttar Pradesh state, where Ayodhya is located. The power at the Centre, is however Congress.
1986: The Babri Masjid Action Committee is formed
Rs 2,000 from Islamic Scholar, Meeting in Lucknow: How Babri Masjid Action Committee Was Born
As the decades-long legal battle over the Ayodhya land dispute moves towards conclusion, one name that emerges as the biggest crusader for the Muslim cause is that of the committee founded in 1986.
It was a few months after the 1982 Samastipur Rath Yatra by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). “Ali Miyan, one of the most noted Islamic scholars and the head of the famous Islamic seminary Nadwa College in Lucknow, called me to discuss the (Ayodhya) matter in 1983,” recalls advocate Zafaryab Jilani, one of the most recognisable voices in the legal battle from the Muslim side in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
Then a young man, Jilani, who says he got associated with the cause in court by chance, reminisces how information on the matter was scarce at the time. Merits and weaknesses were not known. “It was then that Ali Miyan gave me Rs 2,000 and asked me to get the files from Ayodhya and prepare a note on the historical position of the mosque,” he says. It was also discussed to start a Tahrik, or a movement within the community in support of the Babri Masjid.
This is the story not of an individual but of an organisation. As the nearly 70-year-long legal battle over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in independent India moves towards completion, one name that emerges as the biggest crusader for the Muslim cause is the Babri Masjid Action Committee. The wrangle over the land, where Babri Masjid stood, dates back to 1857 when Maulvi Muhammad Asghar, the muezzin of the mosque, filed a petition before the magistrate complaining that the courtyard of the structure had been forcibly taken over by the mahant of Hanumangarhi. In 1859, the British government got a wall built, separating the places of worship for Hindus and Muslims. Since then till the intervening night of December 22nd and 23rd in 1949, the status quo remained at the site, before idols of Ram and Sita were placed inside the mosque.
Six days after the so-called “emergence” of the idols, on December 29, Babri Masjid was declared a disputed property. Orders were passed barring Muslims from entering the mosque. The main gate was locked and Hindus were given permission for a darshan from a side gate. From the time of being declared a disputed property in 1949 till 1975, the matter remained pending with the sessions court in Faizabad. In 1975, a case was filed in the Allahabad high court, against orders of receivership. Two years later, the case was transferred to the Lucknow bench of the high court. This after the Awadh Bar Association filed a petition claiming jurisdiction of matters of Faizabad/Ayodhya was with the bench at Lucknow.
From 1977, over the next few years, the case remained in limbo. No progress was made as judge after judge recused themselves. Not many from the Muslim side or the Hindu side took much interest in the legal battle. But as things started changing politically with Hindu groups gradually building a movement around the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign, the Muslim side too pulled up its socks.
The initiative from Ali Miyan, who was also the president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), laid the first building blocks of the movement that over the next few years would lead to the formation of the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC)
On January 2, 1986 came a big moment in the dispute as the Faizabad district judge passed orders for opening the locks of the main gate of the Babri Masjid. On the same day, an urgent meeting of the AIMPLB was held, where it was decided to chalk out a campaign strategy in support of mosque.
A meeting of Muslim leaders was held at the residence of noted lawyer Abdul Mannan in Lucknow on January 4. Those present included Azam Khan, the current MP from Rampur and a senior leader of the Samajwadi party. Also present was the-then Congress MLA Sayeeduzzama. Two days later, a larger meeting was called at a house located in one of the narrow byways of Aminabad in Lucknow with around 200 people in attendance. It was in this meeting that the Babri Masjid Action Committee was formed.
Azam Khan and Zafaryab Jilani were elected conveners while Maulana Muzaffar Hussain was made the president. In 1987, civil suits in the case were withdrawn from Faizabad and transferred to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court. As the legal battle continued, it was the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) under the aegis of the AIMPLB which built up a community movement against the temple agitation being spearheaded by right-wing Hindu organisations and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The situation changed dramatically when the mosque was demolished by right-wing activists on December 6, 1992. Jilani says, “With the Babri mosque being no more and a subsequent Supreme court order of 1994, our focus shifted towards the legal battle. There was pressure on the personal law board to take over the case. The action committee was given the task of the legal battle.”
Since then, for almost a quarter of a century, it’s the Babri Masjid Action Committee that has pursued the legal battle on behalf of different Muslim parties including the Sunni Central Waqf Board, both in the high court and since 2010 in the Supreme Court. The case reached the SC after the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on September 30, 2010 ordered equal division of the land among the three main parties in the title suit: Sunni Central Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman.
So what happens to the Babri Masjid Action Committee as the case heads towards conclusion and most likely a judgement by mid-November? Convener Jilani has no ready answers. But he accepts that “things will not be the same as before”. With near certainty of the legal battle reaching a closure, the committee may well become a part of the historical journey of one of the most contentious political, social and legal disputes of contemporary India.
As the Ayodhya land dispute case draws to a close, a News18 series traces the journey of one of the most protracted legal battles in the history of independent India.
A timeline of the case: Till Oct 2019
A timeline of the case, Ayodhya (Babri Masjid- Ram Janambhoomi)- 1950-1989
A timeline of the case, Ayodhya (Babri Masjid- Ram Janambhoomi)- 1991-1993
A timeline of the case, Ayodhya (Babri Masjid- Ram Janambhoomi)- 2010-2019
A timeline of the Babri Masjid/ Ram Janambhoomi case: Till Oct 2019
1986: Rajiv Opened Lock, Saffron Got The Key
The political lexicon of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement
In the complex world of Indian politics, the BJP rules today. The dominant force in the NDA bagged 303 seats out of a possible 543 in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The saffron party received 37% of the votes, a jump of over 6% since 2014. BJP’s chief rival, Congress, got half: 19% vote share.
The situation was the reverse, 35 years ago. Many young Indians today would find it hard to believe that under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, the Congress earned 49% of the votes and a staggering 404 seats in the 1984 general elections.
The BJP, in contrast, picked up less than 8% of the ballot and was reduced to a single-digit party with just two seats in the lower house.
What happened in the years between those two extreme verdicts is a slow but clear shift, from the centre to the right. Social scientists and bureaucrats of the time believe that the Ramjanmabhoomi movement of the late 1980s was central to the legitimisation and mainstreaming of the right in India, which benefited hugely from two of then-Prime-Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s political choices.
One, he nullified the Supreme Court’s 1985 decision to provide maintenance for Shah Bano, a Muslim widow who had been divorced by her husband. That decision was taken to pacify the Muslim conservatives who were agitating against the judgment across the country.
In his book, ‘My Years with Rajiv and Sonia’, former home secretary R D Pradhan recalls having a one-on-one conversation with Gandhi and telling him, “Mr Prime Minister, you are facing a difficult situation, but I feel that you are the natural leader of the Muslim youth, boys and girls, as well as of all young Indians. Do whatever you want, but do not compromise your image as a young and progressive leader.” Rajiv replied, “Pradhanji, don’t forget that I am also a politician.”
The former bureaucrat remembered being “bothered” by those words. “Until that stage, he (Rajiv Gandhi) had risen above the level of the ordinary run of politicians. He had proved that he could be bold and innovative in tackling problems that had been facing India’s polity-…Now it seemed that he had become a prisoner of political compulsions,” he adds.
To balance the political slant and show that he was equally accommodative to Hindu sentiments, Rajiv then made his second major decision in February 1986. He unlocked the gates of Babri Masjid for Hindus to worship.
Writing for The Statesman in May 1986, journalist Neerja Chowdhury said, “A policy of appeasement of both communities being pursued by the government for electoral gains is a vicious cycle which will become difficult to break.” Opening the locks didn’t appease the saffron brigade; it whetted its appetite. There was now a demand for the construction of a Ramjanmabhoomi Mandir on the site of the Babri mosque.
To broaden the movement, the VHP, R S S and BJP hit upon the idea of Ram shilas, bricks which were worshipped and consecrated across villages in various parts of India. These bricks were meant to be used for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Some suggest that telecasting Ramayan on DD in 1987 too was part of the outreach to Hindus.
“A large number of Hindus were politically mobilised. But it communalised the whole situation and Hindus and Muslims came dangerously close to confrontation,” wrote social activist Asghar Ali Engineer in the essay, “Hindu-Muslim Relations before and after 1947”. In the 1989 Lok Sabha election that followed, BJP vote share rose to 11% and seats leapfrogged to 85.
But some social scientists believe that the roots of the Indian right’s rise date further back to the 1970s. Political scientist Imtiaz Ahmad feels that the mainstreaming of the right-wing occurred with Jai Prakash Narain’s Bihar movement.
“Until that time, the R S S was seen as an untouchable in Indian politics. During that movement, they came close to the opposition parties because they had interacted in jail during the Emergency. From then on, right-wing forces began to assert themselves in politics. Advani’s rath yatra was an expression and a consequence of this. Rajiv Gandhi may be blamed for opening the lock, but that was incidental in my view. Even if the lock had not been opened, the right-wing forces were ready to galvanise and mount pressure,” he says.
Rao, PM, wanted mosque, temple to stand together
Before the demolition of Babri Masjid, the then PM Narasimha Rao had asked the Gujarat-based chief architect of the Ram temple project Chandrakantbhai Sompura whether the mosque, too, could be part of the plan and whether the Babri Masjid and a Ram temple could stand next to one another, reports Yusra Husain.
According to Sompura (77), Rao, in seeking his opinion, had been hinting that the mosque could remain where it was and the temple could be constructed from beyond the Ram Chabutra. But the idea could not be realised as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) opposed it.
“The PM called me up and asked if the mosque, with its three iconic domes, could be part of the design along with the temple. I communicated the idea to VHP, who had roped me in for the project, but it opposed it and the idea got buried in time,” Sompura told TOI over the phone from Ahmedabad.
“VHP was adamant if the 6-foot-by-3-foot space of the khatiya (bed) where Bhagwan Ram was born is not the centre of the Ram mandir, it wouldn’t matter where the temple came up. The Ram mandir had to be built at the very spot where the structure (mosque) was as they believed Lord Ram was born in the area right under the central dome,” he added.
1992 onwards/the events
1992: Demolition of the Babri Masjid
The mosque is razed down by more than lakh supporters of the VHP, the Shiv Sena party and the BJP, prompting nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims in which more than 2,000 people die. India Today adds:
India Today December 29, 2008
On December 6, 1992, an unprecedented religious frenzy whipped up by an array of Hindu rightwing organisations brought down the medieval Babri Masjid, while the state, represented by 25,000 paramilitary personnel, including the elite NSG, stood like spectators. It was a monumental failure of both the intelligence and security establishments. The widespread riots that followed the demolition rent the nation’s social fabric. “The damage to India’s polity and the reputation of the law enforcers was irreparable,” wrote India Today in December 1992.
End of India Today item
The events of 6 Dec 1992
When hordes of karsevaks brought down the 16th century structure hoping to build a Ram Mandir in its place, many Indians also felt the same way wondering if the nature of national politics had altered forever. The masjid's razing was the final outcome of the Ram Janambhoomi movement which had gathered steam since 1990.
In Naseem, director Saeed Mirza's tender yet unsettling movie on the days leading to the Babri Masjid's demolition, a bedridden old man lives in a mansion of memory reciting Urdu couplets and cocooning himself from the turmoil. He dies the day the mosque is brought down. Mirza once said, the film "was an epitaph to the dream that India gave itself at the time of Independence."
When hordes of karsevaks shouted, "Ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do," and brought down the 16th century structure hoping to build a Ram Mandir in its place, many Indians also felt the same way wondering if the nature of national politics had altered forever. The masjid's razing was the final outcome of the Ram Janambhoomi movement which had gathered steam since 1990. The movement was piloted by the Sangh parivar with top BJP and VHP leaders at its forefront.
The political ramifications
Twenty-five years on, the jury is still divided on the long-term impact of the controversial issue. Some believe it was a game-changing moment, others differ. BJP politician Chandan Mitra says that the masjid's demolition marked "a decisive turn" in the nature of Indian politics whereby the idea of "cultural nationalism" overtook the existing "ideological nationalism" that India saw since Independence.
Till then, he says, identity politics was confined to caste and small groups. "This was a supra identity that sought to be established as a kind of majority nationalism. The idea has been gaining ground since then and has established itself as the dominant theme in Indian politics," he says.
Political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed provides a counter. He says the demolition is "a peripheral issue" in Indian politics today, raised sporadically "to influence the electoral process." Even the electoral relevance of Babri Masjid or building the Ram Mandir has declined, he says.
"The BJP recognises this. It is not interested in building the temple but in keeping the issue alive. BJP occasionally talks about it only to use it to polarise the votes and gain some advantage. Look how the Babri Masjid issue is irrelevant in the forthcoming Gujarat election. Even in the UP state election this year, it was not an issue," says Ahmed.
A BJP-led Union government ruled between 1999 and 2004. The saffron party enjoys a majority in the Lok Sabha since 2014. But the issue, as Ahmed says, has never been on the front-burner. Mitra points out that building the temple is "very much" a part of BJP's agenda. However, he says that the Supreme Court order, which says that there can be no construction at the site, has "taken the sting out of the movement." "It will be difficult to violate SC's order unless the two communities are in agreement. That too does not seem likely," he says.
Dalit commentator Chandrabhan Prasad too feels the impact of the masjid's demolition has been limited. "In UP, we've seen BSP and SP roar to power with absolute majority. If the politics had changed permanently, this wouldn't have happened," he says.
Prasad believes that liberalisation had a far greater impact on long-term national politics than the flattening of Babri Masjid. "Dalits have been the biggest beneficiaries of the Constitution and the market economy," he says.
Social scientist and politician Yogendra Yadav provides the big picture saying that the demolition signals a shift in popular opinion. "The middle ground of public opinion decisively shifted towards majoritarianism thereafter. It taught us that secularism cannot be defended merely with instruments of law or arms of the state. We realised that when public opinion shifts, everything else - politics, state institutions, even judiciary, shifts," he says.
"Therefore, the real lesson is that the battle to save secularism has to be fought in the minds of ordinary people. That sadly is a battle secular Indians have not seriously engaged with. This would mean a deeper engagement with our traditions, in Indian languages, and with the common sense of ordinary people. The longer we delay it, the weaker our republic becomes, and susceptible to the kind of thuggery we see today," Yadav says.
Rao govt could have saved Babri: the then Home Secy
The Babri Masjid could have been saved if there was political will to act and the then PM P V Narasimha Rao did not accept a comprehensive contingency plan of the home ministry prepared before the demolition, claims Madhav Godbole who was the Union home secretary that time.
“If political initiative had been taken at the prime minister’s level, the Mahabharata of this Ramayana could have been avoided,” he says in his new book on the Ayodhya dispute.
Seeking to draw a cogent picture of the events which transpired during the critical period before and after the demolition, Godbole says as PM, Rao “played the most important role in this crucial test match, but, unfortunately, he turned out to be a non-playing captain”.
In “The Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir Dilemma: An Acid Test for India’s Constitution”, the author claims that besides Rao, former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and V P Singh also failed to take timely action when the mosque was under serious threat.
In 1992, after detailed discussions with institutions and officers concerned, Godbole says the MHA prepared a comprehensive contingency plan for the takeover of the structure by invoking Article 356 of the Constitution. The Ministry of Law had also cleared the Cabinet note for this purpose, he adds.“For this purpose, it was underlined that action would have to be taken well before the proposed date of commencement of ‘kar seva’...” he writes in the book.
But Rao felt the contingency plan was not workable and dismissed it, he says. PTI
Hindu neighbours ensured food in area under curfew
It was the evening of December 6, 1992. The Babri Masjid had been brought down to a rubble. Mohan Yadav and Sohan Singh were in an animated discussion in Kanpur’s Barra area when they saw about 300 Muslims fleeing, trying to take refuge in the Hari Masjid (mosque painted green) in the area.
“They were carrying lists in hand and knew where Muslim families in the southern part of Kanpur lived. They were hunting the Muslims down. They were carrying weapons and had come prepared,” said Mohan, now in his 60s.
Since the evening of December 6, 1992, and the next few days, Kanpur burnt in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition. Exactly 25 years later, residents — both Hindus and Muslims — those affected by the days of rioting, of sleepless, harrowing nights rife with rumours and true incidents, recall gory details of the tragic month.
Barra-II witnessed the worst carnage. Yadav and Singh, while recalling the “bhayanak” day, remember how they, along with a few others – Mangali Verma and Rajeev Yadav – helped save some of them, though the administration had asked people not to venture close to the riot-hit areas.
“All our lives, we have had tea together over addas. They were like our brothers. How could we have kept away when they were in danger?” said Sohan Singh.
“Even as we encircled the open truck to let Muslims be taken first to Sachendi and then to the refugee camp at Green Park stadium, some police officers asked us to let the truck full of people be pushed into the Pandu river,” added Sohan.
“It started when Bharat Tailors was looted and burnt. Rioters came to Barra. Stuck inside the Hari Masjid, we could hear slogans and sounds of firing. This continued till December 10,” said Mohammad Suleman Jilani, mutawwali (caretaker) of the Hari Masjid.
Jilani said while officers at Govind Nagar police station did not act, Barra police station in-charge Prem Babu Sharma and outpost in-charge Jai Narayan Tiwari, were saving people’s lives. “In Damodar Nagar, a house was set on fire with 13 people inside it when Jai Narayan Tiwari helped them get out through the back door with the help of a rope, even as his own motorbike was burnt," said Jilani.
It was also because of the few Hindus of Barra area that another mosque in Nayi Basti area was saved from rioters, recalled Jilani's family. “When the area was under curfew, these men would under their protection, take a subzi-wallah to the area, so that food be made available to Muslim families under siege,” they said.
1992-1997: the events
1992, Dec 12 Narsimha Rao govt sets up Liberhan Commission to probe 1993 Liberhan Commission starts probe; CBI files chargesheet against LK Advani, 19 others HC starts hearing Ayodhya title suit The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
2003 In a survey asked for by HC, ASI finds evidence of a temple under mosque May 2001 Spl court drops criminal conspiracy charges against Advani and MM Joshi The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
Feb 2002 Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya burnt in a train in Godhra, triggering riots across Gujarat The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
April 2002 Three-judge bench of Sept 2003 CBI court rules that 7 Sangh Pariwar leaders should stand trial for inciting destruction of Babri Masjid. Advani, then deputy PM, was spared June 2009 Liberhan Commission Subramanian Swamy appeals to SC report says 68 guilty of demolition for urgent hearing The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
1992 onwards/ The legal case
Crime No. 197/1992
The Babri Masjid demolition case stems from two cases: Crime No. 197/1992 and Crime No 198/1992.
To begin with, on the day of demolition of Babri Masjid, on Dec 6, 1992, a First Information Report (FIR)-197/1992 was lodged at 5:15 pm by Privambada Nath Shukla (50 years), Station Officer at Police Station (PS), Ramjanum Bhumi, Ayodhya, against lakhs of Karsevaks - names and addresses unknown - Under Section (U/S) 395 (dacoity), 397(dacoity or robbery with attempt to cause death), 332 (causing hurt to deter public servants), 337, 338 (grievous hurt), 295 (injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult religion of any class, 297 (trespass in any place of worship) and 153-A of Indian Penal Code (IPC), which makes promoting enmity between different groups inter alia of religion, read with Section 7 Criminal Law Amendment Act. This eventually led to 49 FIRs being filed against 49 persons with respect to cognizable offences and one FIR relating to non-cognizable offence committed against mediapersons who were recording the demolition of the Babri Masjid and whose video cameras etc were snatched and broken/robbed by the Karsevaks.
On Dec 13, 1992, this case was entrusted for investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Later Crime No. 198/1992 also was assigned to the CBI for investigation. Both cases were obviously related, hence they were bunched together.
On Sept 8, 1993, the UP government, in consultation with the High Court, created a Special Court at Lucknow (also known as CBI Court), and on 9 Sept 1993, in consultation with HC, the state government referred Crime No. 197/1992 and 47 other cases to the Special Court headed by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM Ayodhya Prakaran) at Lucknow.
Now, since both the cases were under the ambit of CBI, hence it filed a consolidated charge-sheet in Crime No. 198/1992, as well as against thirty-two others accused in Crime No. 197/1992 and in 47 other related cases.
By Aug 27, 1994, all the cases referred to above were committed by ACJM, Lucknow to the Lucknow Sessions Court. CBI also filed a supplementary charge-sheet on Jan 11, 1996, in which it accused another nine persons who were later committed from ACJM, Lucknow to Lucknow Sessions Court on April 10, 1996. These nine persons were a part of the overall 49 accused. All this continued for yet another year and a half, until on Sep 9, 1997 ACJM Ayodhya Prakaran (Session Court), Lucknow charged the accused U/S 147, 153-A, 153-B, 295, 295-A, 505 read with 120-B (conspiracy) IPC. For the first time, in the history of the case, the conspiracy charge was levelled.
This order was challenged by the 33 accused at the Lucknow bench of Allahabad HC through Criminal Revision No. 199/1997 (Moreshwar Save vs. State of UP, 201/97 (Uma Bharti alias Gajra Singh vs. State of UP, 211/97 (RN Srivastata vs State of UP) and 255/97 (Ashok Singhal vs. State of UP) which led to Justice Jagdish Bhalla at the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High court say that the reference of Crime No. 198/1992 was not done in consultation with the HC, hence, the Session Court was not in a position to try the accused. This order, which came on Feb 12, 2001, derailed the entire prosecution process..
The fallout of Justice Bhalla’s : as on May 4, 2001, the CBI Court, Lucknow ordered the proceedings to be dropped against 25 accused including the eight accused in the Crime No. 198/1992 alongwith 13 of Crime No. 197/1992, on the pretext that these persons were covered by Crime No. 198/1992 in respect whereof the CBI court has no jurisdiction.
CBI chose to rise against the order and filed a Criminal Revision 217/2001 CBI vs. Balasahab Thackaray in June 2001. It seven years to reach to a point when the same Criminal Revision was decided and finally on May 20, 2009, Justice Ashok Kumar Singh found it fit to be dismissed. Against the same order CBI has gone to the Supreme Court (SC).
Crime No 198/1992
Crime No. 198/1992 pertains to high-ranking persons
The second First Information Report (FIR) was lodged on Dec 6, 1992, by Ganga Prasad Tiwari-U/S 153-A, 153-B (imputations prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief). This case was filed against eight hig BJP/VHP leaders: S/ Shri LK Advani, MM Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishor, Sadhvi Rithambra and Vishnu Hari Dalmia. The above sections of the Indian Penal Code are cited by police when communal speeches are delivered. The FIR was in context to the speeches delivered in the morning of Dec 6 prior to the demolition.
It took just four days for the state government, on Dec 10, 1992, to entrust the crime for investigation to Crime-Bureau Chief Investigation Department, UP (CB-CID). Six days later, on Dec 16, 1992, the state government, in consultation with the High Court, Lucknow, set up a Special Court of Judicial Magistrate at Lalitpur, UP. On Feb 27, 1993, the charge-sheet was filed U/S 153-A, 153-B, 505, 147 (punishment for rioting), 149 (membership of unlawful assembly, guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of IPC. This charge-sheet was later enhanced by CB-CID at Lalitpur, UP. On March 1, 1993 the Magistrate at Lalitpur, UP took cognizance of the same. Later, on July 8, 1993, the same case was shifted to Rae Bareli, UP.
This was followed by state government requesting the central government, on Aug 25, 1993 to refer Crime No. 198/1992 to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Finally, the case was handed over to CBI, on Aug 26, 1993. The next move came in the form of state government, in consultation of the HC, creating a Special Court at Lucknow on Sept 8, 1993. On the next day, Sept 9, 1993, in consultation with HC, the state government referred Crime No. 197/1992 as well as 47 other related cases (which stemmed from the same event) to the Special Court headed by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM Ayodhya Prakaran) at Lucknow, UP. This was also called as “CBI Court”.
Next month, on Oct 5, 1993, the CBI filed a consolidated charge-sheet against all the eight high profile accused in the Crime No. 198/1992 and the Crime No. 197/1992. On Oct 8, 1993 the state government referred to it Crime No. 198/1992. The state government then failed to consult the HC before this move. It may be reiterated that the state was then under the Congress-created President’s rule, which served two terms.
The prosecution process took a further step when on Oct 11, 1993, as the ACJM took cognizance of both the cases at Lucknow, and further on Jan 24, 1994, the record which was lying at Rae Bareli, UP was brought to Lucknow. The cases were, thereafter, committed to ACJM, Lucknow, and the case continued until Sept 9, 1997, when the ACJM, Lucknow charged the accused U/S 147, 153-A, 153-B, 295, 295-A, 505 read with 120-B (conspiracy) of IPC. Here for the first time the conspiracy charge was levelled.
The moment the conspiracy charge came into play, the order was challenged by the accused at the Lucknow bench of Allahabad HC which, finally, led Justice Jagdish Bhalla to order on Feb 12, 2001 that since the reference of Crime No. 198/1992 was not done in consultation with the HC, the Sessions Court was in no position to try the accused..
“CBI deleted the conspiracy charge in its supplementary charge-sheet against LK Advani filed at Rae Bareli Court on March 30, 2003, and thus paved the way for his discharge order from the Babri Masjid demolition case. This happened on Sept 19, 2003 by the First Class Magistrate. Later, all the other high-profile accused got the criminal proceedings “stayed” on the same grounds, on Sept 30, 2003 from the HC. Solicitor general RN Trivedi to opposed the Muslim side revision petition, which ultimately had led Justice YR Tripathi at the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, on July 5, 2005, to order that prima facie the charge against all the eight accused, including Advani was maintainable,” informed Zafaryab Jilani, the co-convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee. The case got a fresh lease of life at Rae Bareli albeit without the conspiracy charge.
End of the item with the heading The legal case
1998: The BJP forms coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
2001: Tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledges again to build Hindu temple at the site.
January 2002: Mr Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appoints a senior official, Shatrughna Singh, to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
February 2002: BJP rules out committing itself to the construction of a temple in its election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. VHP confirms deadline of 15 March to begin construction. Hundreds of volunteers converge on site. At least 58 people are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra which is carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya.
March 2002: Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, die in riots in Gujarat following the train attack.
BBC adds: More than 50 people died in February 2002 when a train carrying Hindu activists returning to Gujarat from Ayodhya was set alight, allegedly by a Muslim mob.
At least 1,000 people - mainly Muslims - died in the violence in the state that erupted afterwards. Other estimates say the death toll was at least double that. End of the BBC item.
April 2002: Three High Court judges begin hearings on determining who owns the religious site.
2002: The High Court directs the Archaeological Survey of India to excavate the site to determine if a temple lay underneath
January 2003: Archaeologists begin a court-ordered survey to find out whether a temple to Lord Ram existed on the site.
The 2003 charge-sheet
ON May 31, 2003, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a supplementary charge-sheet against Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and seven others, including Union Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, former Union Minister Uma Bharti, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinay Katiyar and Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal, in the Babri Masjid demolition case in a Special Court in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh. The report, filed by CBI counsel S.S. Gandhi, contains the statements of 39 witnesses, besides documents and press reports relating to the investigation of case No.198/92 by the agency after September 10, 1993. The development has led to fresh demands from Opposition parties, especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), that Advani and Joshi should quit the government to enable the CBI to pursue the prosecution of the case in an unbiased manner.
The CBI had filed its consolidated charge-sheet against most of the accused in the case before the Special Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Lucknow, on October 5, 1993. The supplementary charge-sheet had to be filed after the Supreme Court upheld the Uttar Pradesh government's notification setting up a Special Court in Rae Bareli to deal with the charges. The accused face charges of inciting communal feelings that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.
In February 2001, the Allahabad High Court had quashed the charges against Advani and others, citing a procedural lapse, which resulted in the State government transferring the case to a special CBI court without due consultation with the High Court, as required under the law. The Uttar Pradesh government, led by Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, issued the notification to set up the Special CBI court in Rae Bareli following persistent demand from civil rights groups and Opposition parties.
End of the Frontline item
August 2003: The survey presented evidence of a temple under the mosque. Muslim groups disputed the findings. Mr Vajpayee says at the funeral of Hindu activist Ramchandra Das Paramhans that he will fulfil the dying man's wishes and build a temple at Ayodhya and hopes the courts and negotiations will solve the issue.
September 2003: A court rules that seven Hindu leaders should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque, but no charges are brought against L.K Advani (later the deputy prime minister) who was also at the site in 1992.
Oct 2004: Mr Advani says his party still has "unwavering" commitment to building a temple at Ayodhya, which he said was "inevitable".
November 2004: A court in Uttar Pradesh rules that an earlier order which exonerated Advani for his role in the destruction of the mosque should be reviewed.
July 2005: Suspected Islamic militants attack the disputed site, using a jeep laden with explosives to blow a hole in the wall of the complex. Security forces kill five people they say are militants, and a sixth who was not immediately identified.
2007: The Supreme Court refuses to admit a review petition on the Ayodhya dispute.
June 2009: The Liberhan commission investigating events leading up to the mosque's demolition submits its report - 17 years after it began its inquiry.
November 2009: There is uproar in parliament as the Liberhan commission's report is published and it blames leading politicians from the Hindu nationalist BJP for a role in the mosque's razing.
July 2010 - On July 27, the court took the initiative for an amicable solution to the dispute when it called on counsel for the contending parties to go into the possibility. But no headway was made. (Reality Views)
September 2010 (Reality Views) adds: The Special Bench, at its Bench of Judicature here, comprising Justices S.U. Khan, D.V. Sharma and Sudhir Agarwal, said that Mr. Tripathi's application lacked merit. It also imposed “exemplary costs” of Rs. 50,000, terming his effort for an out-of-court settlement as a “mischievous attempt.”
Mr. Tripathi's plea was opposed by the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha and the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, which submitted separate replies to the OSD on September 16. Stating that an amicable solution was not possible, they alleged that the application was mala fide.
The case combines five suits, the last of which, filed in 1989, actually lists the two plaintiffs as “Bhagwan Shri Ram Lala Virajman and Asthan Shri Ram Janmabhoomi”, represented by “their next friend” Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal, a retired judge and a former VHP vice-president. Agarwal is dead, as are two other petitioners Gopal Singh Visharad and Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das. (Reality Views)
September 2010: Allahabad High Court rules that the site should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of a third, Hindus another third and the Nirmohi Akhara sect the remainder. Control of the main disputed section, where the mosque was torn down, is given to Hindus. . A lawyer for the Muslim community says he will appeal
2010/ Allahabad High Court's ruling
Allahabad High Court's ruling in September 2010 addressed three questions. It said that the disputed spot was Ram's birthplace, that the mosque was built after the demolition of a temple and that it was not built in accordance with the tenets of Islam.
Following the decision, Hindus hope to see a temple built on the site, while Muslims are still demanding the reconstruction of the mosque.
In 2011 the Supreme Court suspended the ruling after Hindu and Muslim groups appealed against the 2010 verdict.
Who was awarded what?
The court ruled in an 8,500-page judgement that two-thirds of the disputed site should be allocated to Hindu groups, with the remainder to Muslims.
For the first time in a judicial ruling, it said that the disputed site was the birthplace of the Hindu god.
The court ordered that the current arrangement at Ayodhya - which is currently the site of a makeshift Hindu temple - should be "maintained as the status quo" for three months to allow time for any appeals against the judgement.
How did the judges rule on the conflicting claims?
The court ruled that the disputed site is the birth place of Lord Ram, who is "both a juristic person and a deity".
The two Hindu judges on the three-judge panel said that the building constructed by the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, Babur, was not a mosque because it was built "against the tenets of Islam" on the site of a demolished Hindu temple.
However the Muslim judge in the case dissented from this view, arguing that no temple had been destroyed and that the mosque was built on ruins.
The two Hindu judges also agreed that the Ayodhya site was found by the Archaeological Survey of India originally to have been "a massive Hindu religious structure" and that Hindus had been worshipping there as a "sacred place of pilgrimage... since time immemorial".
It also ruled that Hindu idols were placed in the disputed structure in 1949 - a point which Muslims argue is important because that act, they say, triggered much of the tension over Ayodhya that remains today.
End of the BBC item
December 2010: The Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and Sunni Waqf Board moved to the Supreme Court of India, challenging part of the Allahabad High Court’s verdict.
The judgement explained
Ayodhya verdict: decoding Allahabad HC's nine-year-old majority judgment under challenge in SC
The suit filed by the Ayodhya deity, Sri Bhagwan Ram Virajman, goes a step ahead to seek the construction of a temple on the land and the declaration of the infant deity and Ram Janam Asthan as juridical persons with untrammeled rights over the property
The Supreme Court will pass its verdict on the appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim parties against the majority 2:1 judgment of the Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010 in the suits filed for declaration of title and possession of the disputed 2.77-acre Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land in Ayodhya.
The suit filed by the Ayodhya deity, Sri Bhagwan Ram Virajman, goes a step ahead to seek the construction of a temple on the land and the declaration of the infant deity and Ram Janam Asthan as juridical persons with untrammeled rights over the property.
It is important to decipher the final conclusions of the high court and individual findings of each of the three judges on the Bench – Justices S.U. Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and D.V. Sharma – to understand the issues at stake before the apex court in the nearly century-old dispute which has transgressed cultures, religions and faith of the people, namely the Hindu and Muslim communities.
Nine years ago, the high court had concluded that both Hindus and Muslims were joint title holders of the disputed property. It divided the property among the Hindus, Muslims and a religious sect called the Nirmohi Akhara, which claimed that it had been managing the worship at the site for time immemorial. The court had declared that Muslims should not receive a share less than one-third of the disputed premises.
Conclusions of the High Court
The central dome of the disputed building, Babri Masjid, which was demolished by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992, is the exact birthplace of Lord Ram “as per faith and belief of the Hindus”.
The area within the inner courtyard belong to members of both the communities, i.e., Hindus and Muslims as they have used it "since decades and centuries".
The area covered by the structures, namely, Ram Chabutra, Sita Rasoi and Bhandar in the outer courtyard belongs to Nirmohi Akhara.
The open area within the outer courtyard shall be shared by Nirmohi Akhara and the deity, "since it has been generally used by the Hindu people for worship at both places".
In case of grievances while partitioning the property, minor adjustments can be made to compensate the affected party from the land acquired by the Centre under the Ayodhya Act of 1993.
The acquired land should be made available to Hindus and Muslims for enjoyment of their shares in the disputed property and for separate entry for egress and ingress of the people without disturbing each others' rights.
The parties may approach the Officer on Special Duty, Ayodhya Bench at Lucknow or the Registrar, Lucknow Bench, Lucknow, for formal partition of the disputed premises, but they should maintain status quo for three months from the date of the high court judgment.
Justices Khan, Agarwal and Sharma separately answered the several issues raised in the various suits, including whether the disputed structure on the property was a mosque protected under the waqf law, whether the first Mughal Emperor Babar built the structure in 1528, whether a Hindu temple was demolished to build the 'mosque', and finally, whether the Ram Janam Asthan is a 'juridical person'.
The disputed structure was a mosque, but there is no direct evidence that Babar built it. No temple was demolished to construct the mosque. The mosque was constructed over temple ruins, using materials from the pre-existing structure. However, Justice Khan concluded that both Hindus and Muslims were unable to prove the commencement of their title over the disputed property.
The judge found that for a "very long time" before the construction of the mosque, Hindus believed that somewhere in the large premises Lord Ram was born. After the construction of the mosque, the Hindus believed that Lord Ram was born in the constructed portion of the disputed property. Then, some decades before 1949, Hindus started treating the exact spot under the central dome of the mosque as the birthplace of Lord Ram. The idol was placed under this central dome in the early hours of December 23, 1949.
Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi existed before 1855. The Hindus were worshipping there. The premises uniquely saw both Hindus offering worship as well as the Muslims offering namaz inside its boundary wall and compound. Both Hindus and Muslims were in joint possession of the disputed land.
Agrees with Justice Khan on three points - That the exact birthplace of Lord Ram was under the central dome of the mosque; the disputed structure was always treated by the Muslims as a mosque; and there is no direct evidence that the mosque was built by Babar in 1528 AD. He however adds that the mosque was built definitely before the traveller Joseph Tieffenthaler visited Oudh in 1766-71.
But Justice Agarwal disagreed with Justice Khan on one point. That is, Justice Agarwal, unlike his colleague on the Bench, concluded that the mosque was built after demolishing a temple.
He concluded that the disputed structure was not a mosque and not built by Babar. A temple was demolished to build the disputed structure - a finding, the judge said, is supported by the Archeological Survey of India excavations at the site. He endorsed the argument that the pillars inside the mosque had images of Hindu gods, which is uncharacteristic of the architecture of a mosque under the tents of Islam.
Justice Sharma decided that Muslims did not use the building to offer prayers from 1528 AD. He confirmed a 1966 decision of a Civil Judges that the property was not a waqf as no valid notification was issued under Section 5(1) of the Muslim Waqf Act of 1936. He concluded that the Hindus had adverse possessory rights over the property which perfected their right of prayers.
He held that the laws of limitation applicable in a title declaratory suit did not apply for the Ayodhya deity, which is a minor.
Significantly, Justice Sharma supports the claim in the deity's suit that the disputed property, Ram Janm Bhumi' is itself a juristic person capable of having rights and endowed with immunity from any challenge under the law to its ownership. He had observed that the "Asthan is personified as the spirit of the divine". The arguments in the Supreme Court were largely based on this claim.
16 appeals against HC order
The first order in the appeals against the 2010 Ayodhya judgment of the Allahabad high court was passed in May 2011 by a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha, which had stayed the HC verdict dividing the 2.77-acre disputed land equally among three parties — Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board. Since then, the benches that heard the Ayodhya appeal from time to time always had a judge belonging to the Muslim community. But the five-judge bench, set up by the CJI, does not have a single judge from the minority community.
On September 29, a bench of then CJI Misra and Justices Bhushan and Nazeer, by a 2-1 majority, had held that appeals against the Allahabad HC’s verdict on Ayodhya land dispute will be heard by a threejudge bench. Justice Nazeer had leaned in favour of the Ayodhya dispute being sent to a five-judge bench. There are 16 appeals and petitions by Hindu and Muslim parties challenging the Allahabad HC’s October 2010 verdict.
2011 All 3 sides—Nirmohi Akhara, Nov 2017 Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Ram Lalla Virajman and Sunni Waqf Board—appeal against verdict in Supreme Court The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
May 2011 SC stays HC verdict, orders status quo at site The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
Feb 2016 BJP leader Shankar meets litigants of both sides in Lucknow and Ayodhya for a mediation The Times of India | 6 Dec 2017
The Liberhan Commission
What was this Commission?
What is the Liberhan Commission?
New Delhi: The Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan Commission of Inquiry was appointed on December 16, 1992, 10 days after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
M S Liberhan, then a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, was assigned the task of probing the sequence of events that led to the occurrences at the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex on December 6, 1992, resulting in the destruction of the structure.
In a notification issued, the then Union Home Secretary, Madhav Godbole had said that the Commission would submit its report to the Central government "as soon as possible but not later than three months".
But with 48 extensions, the Liberhan panel became the longest Commission of Inquiry in the history of Independent India. The last extension was in March this year for three months. It took the Commission 16-and-a-half years to submit its 900-plus-page report.
By June 30, 2009, when the report was submitted to Prime Minsiter Manmohan Singh, the Union Government had spent over ₹ eight crore on the commission, making it the most costliest ever. Most of the expenses was spent on salary and perks of the supporting staff.
As part of its brief, the Liberhan Commission had been asked to look into the role played by the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh and his ministerial colleagues, officials of the UP Government, central leaders and by individuals, agencies concerned and organisations in bringing down the structure.
The commission held 399 sittings and in the course of its investigation, examined powerful people like former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalyan Singh, VHP leader Ashok Singhal, the Congress's Arjun Singh, and former UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.
On November 23, 2009, a national daily reported that it had access to the report and quoted what it claimed was portions from it. This lead to an uproar in Parliament with the Opposition demanding to know how the report had leakd before it was tabled in the two Houss. The Government has assured that it will table the report with an ATR(Action Taken Report) during the winter session of the Parliament.
The case in the Supreme Court
August- Oct: The final hearings
As efforts to mediate a final settlement between the Hindu and Muslim parties in the Ayodhya title dispute case fell through, the appeals posted before the Supreme Court came up for hearing on August 6, 2019. The day-to-day hearing ended on October 16.
The parties in the case are — Gopal Singh Visharad, an individual who claims he has the right to worship Lord Ram at Ayodhya; the Nirmohi Akhara, one of the three parties who was offered a portion of the ownership as part of the Allahabad High Court verdict; the Sunni Waqf Board, also offered a portion; and Ram Lalla, the deity, who through a shebait claims full ownership of the place.
Here is a breakdown of how the hearing has proceeded:
A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi began hearing the cross-appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim sides
The Nirmohi Akhara said it was a religious establishment of a public character to which the Ramjanmabhoomi had “always belonged”. It had been managing the Ramjanmabhumi and receiving offerings from worshippers. It submitted that the “Asthan of Janam Bhumi was of ancient antiquity.”
"Whether Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem... Has such a question ever arisen in any court?" Supreme Court judge, Justice S.A. Bobde, asked senior advocate K. Parasaran, the lawyer for Ram Lalla. Mr. Parasaran submitted that references of disputed land is there in Valmiki Ramayana. He said the usual strict codes of evidence should relaxed in this case as worshippers believe the spirit of Sri Ram resides in the Asthan.
Can birthplace be considered a ‘juristic person’, asks Supreme Court.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a Muslim party, said he will “not be able to assist” the court if the hearing is “rushed through”.
Chief Justice Gogoi said the Supreme Court is not in a hurry. Lawyers need not feel constrained and can argue to their heart's content.
The top judge said arguing lawyers on both the sides of the religious divide can raise their arguments as and how they like, no matter how long they take.
The Hindu parties involved in the Ayodhya title appeals received a barrage of questions from the Constitution Bench, including whether there is any evidence on record to show that the first Mughal emperor, Babur, ordered the building of the Babri Masjid.
While Justice Bobde asked about when the structure, demolished by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992, began to be called ‘Babri Masjid’, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud reflected on historical texts to point out that Ayodhyaand the disputed area seemed to have been a confluence of several religions, including Buddhism, Jainism and even Islam.
The Supreme Court asked the Hindu parties to present proof of their claim that Babri Masjid was built on the remains of an ancient temple or Hindu religious structure.
"Over the past two millennia we have seen civilisations settle and resettle on river banks. They have built upon pre-existing structures. But prove that the alleged ruins or demolished building (on which Babri Masjid was built) was religious in nature," Justice D.Y. Chandrachud asked senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, who is appearing for the deity.
Mr. Vaidyanathan told the Supreme Court that a stone slab, which fell out of the western wall of the disputed Babri Masjid structure, had Sanskrit inscriptions dating back to the 12th century about a Lord Vishnu temple.
Mr. Vaidynathan said the slab and the inscriptions give credence to the version that the Babri mosque was built on the disputed land where a massive structure supported by several pillars once stood. He said it is believed by devotees that Lord Vishnu took human form as Ram.
Mr. Vaidynathan said there are enough artefacts and materials to support the belief of devotees that Ram Janmabhoomi is the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Present evidence on temple claim, Supreme Court tells lawyers.
Gopal Singh Visharad, one of the appellants in the Ayodhyacase, said Hindus have an "unfettered"right to worship at a site believed for centuries to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, for Visharad, claimed there were affidavits from the Muslim side saying a temple was demolished to build the Babri mosque in the 16th century.
Mr. Kumar said the faith of the Hindus survived despite the construction of the mosque in the Ramjanmabhoomi. August 23
The Supreme Court asked Nirmohi Akhara whether it can have rights on the Ramjanmabhoomi at variance with or independent of the rights of Ayodhya's infant deity. The Bench said the Akhara has no independent claim. If the suit of the deity for the land is dismissed, the shebait’s claim also does not survive.
“Claim of the shebait can never be adverse to the deity. But if you are contesting suit five (suit filed by the deity for title), then you are going against the title of the deity. So, as a shebait, you are asking to dismiss the suit of the deity?” Justice Chandrachud asked.
Nirmohi Akhara drops objection to a separate suit for title filed by the Ayodhya deity.
The Constitution Bench was told that the first Mughal Emperor, Babur, may not have built the ‘Babri Masjid’ structure in Ayodhya.
In fact, the court was told by senior advocate P.N. Mishra, who appears for Ram Janmabhumi Punaruddhar Samiti, that Babur may not have even visited Ayodhya.
Mr. Mishra referred to three works —Ain-i-Akbari written by court historian Abu'l Fazl, Humayun Nama and Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri or Memoirs of Jahangir — to argue his claim. He said none of them mention that Babur built the disputed structure.
The installation of Ayodhyaidols inside the Babri Masjid in the intervening night of December 22-23 of 1949, which marked the beginning of heightened tensions and legal battle, “was a surreptitious attack”, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Sunni Waqf Board, claimed.
He referred to documents saying how then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had expressed grave concern about the incident.
A worshipper’s unflinching faith in the Ramjanmabhoomi cannot be questioned, it has to be accepted, the Supreme Court addressed Mr. Dhavan.
“What are the features involved to conclude that an idol or even the janmasthan is a juristic person? Cull that out and address us,” Justice Chandrachud told Mr. Dhavan.
The court’s remarks was in response to Mr. Dhavan’s contention that there was hardly any evidence to back the faith of the Hindus in the janmasthan from “time immemorial”.
The Supreme Court asked its Registry by what time it could make a system for live-streaming of Ayodhya appeals operational if the court gives permission.
“The Registry to inform as to if this court orders for livestreaming of the Ayodhyamatter, what time would be taken to make the system operational,” a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recorded in a short order.
On the same day, mediation committee filed a short memorandum informing the court that parties across the Hindu-Muslim religious divide have approached it with a request to resume talks.
The memorandum said the parties have suggested that the mediation could continue even as the Supreme Court continues to hear the appeals.
The parties have suggested to the mediators — former Supreme Court judge F.M.I Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchi — that talks should resume from the point where it was abruptly dropped off at the last minute on July 29.
Lotus carvings on Kasauti pillars, figurines, Garuda flanked by two lions and a Dwarapal are not typical features of a mosque, the Supreme Court confronted the Muslim side.
Justice Chandrachud said it is probable that Hindu worshippers flocked to Ram Chabutra to set their eyes beyond the railing barricading them and pray to the space under the central dome of Babri mosque, which they believed to be the exact place of birth of Lord Ram.
The court also allowed the Ayodhya mediation committee to resume talks with disputing Hindu and Muslim parties even as it indicated that the ongoing court hearings of the appeals before a Constitution Bench is likely to finish by October 18.
After urging lawyers to finish arguments by October 18, Chief Justice Gogoi took the first step in the sprint to the finish line for the marathon Ayodhya appeals’ hearings by deciding to sit back after regular court hours on September 23.
Though the Bench wrapped up hearing by noon, the CJI informed lawyers that the judges would hear the case till 5 p.m. on the next date of hearing.
The Supreme Court said the faith of the Hindus in the Ramjanmabhoomi has been a constant and it would be hard to rebut their belief.
The discussion also touched on the aspect whether a physical manifestation of the deity is necessary to recognise it as a juristic personality.
The Muslim side in the Ayodhya title dispute case said Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya and accepted that Ram Chabutra is his exact birth spot. Senior advocate Zafaryab Jilani clarified repeatedly to Justice Bobde that Ram Chabutra, in the outer courtyard, was worshipped by the Hindus as Lord Ram's birthplace. Mr. Jilani said his case was specifically that the inside of Babri Masjid was never the birth spot. “My case is that Hindus never worshipped the space inside the Babri Masjid as the birthplace of Lord Ram. But they worshipped the Ram Chhabutra as the birthplace. The Ram Chhabutra was hardly 50 to 80 feet from the mosque,” Mr. Jilani said.
The Muslim parties argued that the Archaeological Study of India (ASI) report on the excavations at the Babri Masjid site in 2003 is filled with “palpable and inherent” infirmities and inconsistencies.
But the Constitution Bench said it was too late in the day for the Muslim parties to object to the ASI report.
The Bench asked why the Muslims have chosen to question the report in the Supreme Court and not earlier in the Allahabad High Court, which had commissioned the excavations.
The court said the Muslims cannot object in the Supreme Court what they did not object before the Allahabad High Court.
Justice Bobde, said the court cannot be expected to re-construct the history of the Babri Masjid site from ruins, and dropped the penny that the ASI findings may not be “authoritative”.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, for the Sunni Wakf Board, pointed to how the ASI report even inferred there was a circular shrine, believed to be of the sixth century and dedicated to Lord Shiva at the site. “We are inferring so much… conjecturing so much,” she rued about the nature of the court hearings which reached its 32nd consecutive day. “We cannot reconstruct what happened from the ruins, that is why we want expert opinions,” Justice Bobde reacted.
The Supreme Court asked the Ayodhya deity's lawyer why the Hindus insist the disputed land is divine.
The court questioned why the Hindu parties want the disputed land to be recognised not only as a separate juristic person but also as a divinity.
“Why do you insist on divinity (to Ramjanmabhumi) to establish juristic personality to the land. A ship is a juristic person, but not divine...” Justice Bobde asked Mr. Parasaran.
“Ordinary people need tangible forms of God to concentrate while worshipping unlike those in higher state of devotion,” Mr. Parasaran replied.
Sheer belief that Lord Ram was born exactly under the central dome of Babri Masjid, demolished in 1992 by kar sevaks, does not give the Hindus the title or ownership of the disputed land, Mr. Dhavan submitted before the Bench.
Mr. Dhavan said what was definite was the Hindus were given (prescriptive rights) to enter the mosque premises and pray. The senior lawyer said there was no evidence of any titlethey held over the land.
The Ayodhya mediation committee filed a settlement document in the Supreme Court.
A source said the settlement reached in talks have been filed in the apex court. The filing of the settlement coincides with the last day of court hearing by the Ayodhya Bench.
Details of the settlement are confidential and not known.
What the appeals are about
What is it?
On September 27, in the Ayodhya title suit appeals, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion, decided against referring the question “whether offering prayers in a mosque is an essential part of Islam” to a seven-judge Constitution Bench. With this, the court has signalled that it will decide the appeals like any other civil suit, based on evidence, and pay little heed to arguments about the “religious significance” of the Ayodhya issue and the communal strife it has caused.
The Bench said the hearing would start from October 29, leading to the question whether the court would deliver a judgment before the May 2019 general election. The appeals are against the September 30, 2010, decision of the Allahabad High Court to divide the disputed 2.77 acre area among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. The court had relied on Hindu faith, belief and folklore. It concluded that Lord Ram, son of King Dashrath, was born within the 1,482.5 square yards of the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid premises over 9,00,000 years ago during the Treta Yuga. One of the judges added that the “world knows” where Ram’s birthplace is, while another said his finding was an “informed guess” based on “oral evidences of several Hindus and some Muslims” that the precise birthplace of Ram is under the central dome.
How did it come about?
The final hearings began before a Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra (now retired) and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer on December 5 last year. The day also happened to be the eve of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 15th century Masjid by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992. However, the Muslim appellants pointed to certain paragraphs in a 1994 five-judge Constitution Bench judgment in the Dr. Ismail Faruqui case. One of these paragraphs stated that “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz [prayer] by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open.”
“So is the mosque not an essential part of Islam? Muslims cannot go to the garden and pray,” their lawyer and senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan told the court. He asked the Bench to freeze the hearing till this question is decided by a seven-judge Bench.
In their majority view, Chief Justice Misra and Justice Bhushan refused to send the question to a seven-judge Bench. Their opinion said the observations were made in the context of the Faruqui case, which was about public acquisition of places of religious worship. It should not be dragged into the Ayodhya appeals. The minority decision authored by Justice Nazeer dissented with the majority on the Bench, and said this observation about offering prayer in a mosque had influenced the Allahabad High Court. He questioned the haste of the court.
Why does it matter?
The answer to this question is found in the maiden Supreme Court hearing of the appeals last year. Those present distinctly remember senior advocate Kapil Sibal suggest that the Bench post the hearings after July 15, 2019. Along with Mr. Sibal, senior advocate Dushyant Dave and Mr. Dhavan argued that the dispute is not just another civil suit. The case covers religion and faith and dates back to the era of King Vikramaditya. It is probably the most important case in the history of India, which would “decide the future of the polity.”
Mr. Sibal said the government was using the judiciary to realise its agenda for a Ram temple, a promise in the ruling BJP’s 2014 election manifesto.
All eyes are on the new Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. Justice Misra was also the lead judge on the Ayodhya Bench. Chief Justice Gogoi may lead the Ayodhya Bench himself or appoint another judge. With the Lok Sabha election nearing, a request to adjourn the case until after the poll may also be made.
2002 & 2007, SC had upheld separate trials
The apex court had twice, in 2002 and 2007, upheld an Allahabad high court order for separate trials in Rae Bareli and Lucknow.
An SC bench headed by then Chief Justice of India G B Pattanaik had on November 29, 2002, dismissed a petition filed by Mohd Aslam aka Bhure. The latter had challenged the Allahabad HC judgment of September 9, 1997, quashing on technical grounds the UP government's October 8, 1993, notification which ordered that trial of BJP leaders in Rae Bareli (to where it was shifted from Lalitpur in July 1993) and that of kar sevaks in Lucknow should jointly be held in Lucknow.
Bhure sought review of the SC's 2002 order. On March 22, 2007, a bench of then Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, Justice G P Mathur and Justice R V Raveendran dismissed the petition, which had alle ged that though the HC had said the technical defects in the 1993 notification could be cured, the UP government had not taken any step towards it. Dismissing the review petition, the bench had said, "It is for the state government to take appropriate steps... if it so desires, by issuing a fresh notification. We are of the opinion that the earlier order passed by this court dismissing the special leave petition does not require any reconsideration. There is no error apparent on the face of the record nor do the facts and circumstances warrant any interference with our earlier order. The review petition is without any merit."
The SC invoked its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to overcome the "technical defects" in the 1993 notification and ordered joint trial of BJP leaders and kar sevaks in the Babri Masjid demolition case in Lucknow.
The order came on a peti tion filed by the CBI on February 9, 2011, challenging another order of the Allahabad HC, which had upheld the Rae Bareli court's May 20, 2010 judgment absolving L K Advani and other BJP leaders of the conspiracy charge.
A bench of Justice V S Sirpurkar and Justice T S Thakur (who later became CJI) had on March 4, 2011, issued notices to all the accused and sought their response to the CBI's appeal. Since March 4, 2011, the case was listed 31 times before various benches, which together comprised 14 other judges as well.
The 14 judges who heard the matter over the years are H L Dattu, R M Lodha, J S Khehar, Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy , Chandramauli Kumar Prasad, Sudhansu J Mukhopadhaya, M Y Eqbal, V Gopala Gowda and G S Singhvi. Finally, it was decided by a bench comprising Justice P C Ghose and Justice R F Nariman.
About the Hon. SC’s verdict, 2019
A five-judge Supreme Court bench settled the centuries-old Hindu-Muslim dispute that had been in courts for 70 years through a unanimous verdict and handed over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed land for construction of a Ram temple. It also allocated five acres at a “prominent place” in Ayodhya for a mosque.
The bench said the verdict weighed in favour of deity Ram Lalla because the Hindu parties could produce better evidence to substantiate their right over the disputed land. However, the bench was also unanimous that the Muslim parties too had established a competitive right over a part of the disputed land. Hence, it used its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to direct the Centre/UP government to allot five acres of land at a prominent place in Ayodhya for construction of a mosque. The bench ordered framing of a scheme and its implementation through a trust, to be set up by the Centre, within three months for the construction of the temple and its management.
The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, CJI-designate Sharad Arvind Bobde and Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer took just 23 days to author a common judgment running into 929 pages. The bench had reserved its verdict on October 16 and delivered it on November 9.
CJI Gogoi read out a 26-page summary of the judgment for close to 40 minutes in a packed courtroom. “Jai Shri Ram” chants from advocates in black robes echoed immediately after the pronouncement of judgment.
3-way split legally unsustainable, wouldn’t have ensured peace: SC
The judgment was along anticipated lines. After parsing the hearings, legal eagles were expecting the bench to turn in a verdict favouring the construction of Ram mandir at the disputed site. But the 5-0 score came as a surprise.
The SC set aside the September 30, 2010, verdict of the Allahabad high court, which had divided the core disputed area of 1,487 square yards, including the disputed 2.77 acres of plot, into three equal parts and allotted one part each to Ram Lalla (the area under the central dome of the demolished mosque), Nirmohi Akhara (outer courtyard including Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi) and the rest to Sunni Waqf Board. “The three-way split by the Allahabad high court was legally unsustainable. Even as a matter of maintaining public peace and tranquillity, it is not feasible. Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquility,” said the SC.
Nirmohi Akhara became the biggest loser on the day as the SC dismissed its 1959 suit staking claim to the site as time barred and refused to even recognise its right as a ‘shebait’ (priest), thus robbing it of any major role in the to-be-constructed temple. The SC ordered that it would get “appropriate representation” on the trust, but that would be like a participation certificate, with the court leaving it to the Centre to determine what would constitute “appropriate representation”.
The directive that construction of the temple be assigned to a trust to be set up by the Centre comes at the cost of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, which was set up by the VHP in 1985 to construct and manage the proposed Ram temple. However, the Sangh Parivar constituent, which spearheaded the temple movement, should still get to play a key role in the matter, considering that the court has given the Centre a decisive say in determining the composition of the proposed trust.
The verdict was celebrated by temple votaries. Those arrayed on the opposite side were, obviously, not satisfied, but there were signs suggesting an acquiescence, if grudging, into the outcome: Something that raised the prospect of an awkward closure of the vexed mandir versus mosque question that has left an indelible imprint on politics and society.
Political parties also restrained their impulse. BJP and Sangh Parivar, starting from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, R S S chief Mohan Bhagwat and BJP chief Amit Shah, exercised restraint. Political parties and other outfits, who had opposed the mandir campaign, also calibrated their reaction to suit the need for peace.
In its order, the apex court said, “The central government shall, within three months, formulate a scheme pursuant under Sections 6 and 7 of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993. The scheme shall envisage setting up of a trust with a board of trustees or any other appropriate body under Section 6. The scheme shall make necessary provisions in regard to the functioning of the trust or body, including on matters relating to the management of the trust, the powers of the trustees, including the construction of a temple and all necessary, incidental and supplemental matters.”
The SC told the governments at the Centre and the state that handing over of the disputed site to the trust must coincide with the handing over of five acres of land at a prominent place in Ayodhya to the Sunni Waqf Board for construction of a mosque. “The Sunni Waqf Board would be at liberty, on the allotment of the land, to take necessary steps for the construction of a mosque on the land so allotted together with other associated facilities,” the bench said, adding that till the scheme and allotment of alternative five acres to the Waqf Board was worked out, possession of the disputed land would continue to remain with the Centre.
‘Waqf Could Not Prove Exclusive Possession Of Site’
Hindus got the disputed site in Ayodhya for construction of a Ram temple mainly because they could produce evidence, which was better than that furnished by Muslims, to prove that they had uninterruptedly worshipped inside the mosque believing the inner sanctum to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Apart from what they termed impracticality of the three-way division of the disputed site by Allahabad HC, what weighed on the minds of the five judges was the quality of evidence produced by the Hindu parties, which outweighed that presented by the Muslims, but only by a whisker.
However, the SC rejected the Hindu parties’ argument that Muslims had abandoned the mosque since 1857. “The Muslims have not been in possession of the outer courtyard. On a preponderance of probabilities, there is no evidence to establish that the Muslims abandoned the mosque or ceased to perform namaz in spite of the contestation over their possession of the inner courtyard after 1858,” the bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, CJI-designate S A Bobde and Justices D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said. This determination constituted the basis of why the bench thought the Muslim side needed restitution of right over the demolished mosque which could be done by allotting them a 5-acre plot in Ayodhya.
The court, which held that on “balance of probabilities”, the Hindus had a better “possessory claim”, noted that prior to 1856-57, there was no exclusion of Hindus from worshipping within the precincts of the inner courtyard of the disputed structure. Communal riots and the mutiny in 1856-57 led to the British erecting iron railings to separate the places of worship between Hindus and Muslims, the latter getting the inner courtyard of the mosque and the former getting the outer courtyard. Immediately, Hindus set up Ram chabutra close to the iron railings and continued to worship the area under the central dome as Ram’s birthplace.
The apex court said: “Though the Hindus continued to worship at the Ramchabutra, which was in the outer courtyard, by the consistent pattern of their worship including the making of offerings to the ‘Garbh Grih’ (area under central dome of mosque) while standing at the railing, there can be no manner of doubt that this was in furtherance of their belief that the birthplace of Lord Ram was within the precincts of and under the central dome of the mosque.”
On the contrary, no evidence was shown by Muslims to indicate that their possession of the disputed structure was exclusive and that offering of namaz was exclusionary of the Hindus. “Hindus’ worship at Ramchabutra, Sita (Kaushalya) Rasoi and at other religious places including the setting up of a Bhandar clearly indicated their open, exclusive and unimpeded possession of the outer courtyard,” the bench said After weighing the evidence, the SC came to the conclusion that erection of iron railings to segregate the worship areas was not a sub-division of the disputed site. It said Sunni Waqf Board had failed to establish right over the mosque either through ‘dedication by user’ or through adverse possession.
On Allahabad HC ‘s verdict, the court said : “The three-way bifurcation by the (Allahabad) High Court was legally unsustainable. Even as a matter of maintaining public peace and tranquillity, the solution which commended itself to the high court is not feasible. The disputed site admeasures all of 1,500 square yards. Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity.”
‘Title can’t be decided on basis of ASI report’
The Supreme Court rejected the claim of Hindu parties that Mughal emperor Babur’s general Mir Baqi had constructed the Babri Masjid after demolishing a Ram temple at Ayodhya.
It said that the Archaeological Survey of India’s excavation report did not answer this critical issue.
A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, CJI-designate S A Bobde, and Justices D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said: “The excavation report has left unanswered a critical part of the remit which was made to it, namely, a determination of whether a Hindu temple had been demolished to pave way for the construction of the mosque.”
It also rejected the Muslim parties’ argument that the ASI report on the existence of a layered, large structure akin to a Hindu temple beneath the disputed structure was mere “surmise and conjecture”. The SC said that it could be concluded from the ASI report that Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land as excavation indicated the presence of an underlying pillar-based structure over which foundations of the disputed structure rested.
“Artefacts, including architectural fragments which have been recovered during excavation, have a distinct non-Islamic origin. The conclusion which has been drawn by the ASI that the nature of the underlying structure and the recoveries which have been made would on stylistic grounds suggest the existence of temple structure dating back to the 12th century AD would on a balance of probabilities be a conclusion which is supported by evidence,” the bench said.
However, it was quick to discard these as evidence for arriving at a decision on the cross-appeals arising from the title suits. The SC said: “A determination of title was not obviously within the remit of ASI. A finding of title cannot be based in law on the archaeological findings which have been arrived at by ASI.”
It also pointed out the vacuum in evidence between the 12th and 16th centuries. “Between the 12th century to which the underlying structure is dated and the construction of the mosque in the 16th century, there is an intervening period of four centuries. No evidence has been placed in relation to the course of human history between the 12th and 16th centuries. Title to the land must be decided on settled legal principles and applying evidentiary standards which govern a civil trial,” it said.
‘The Janmasthan is not a deity’
Hindus did suffer a major setback with the SC rejecting their argument that Ram Janmasthan itself was a juristic person as it was worshipped as a deity.
Muslim parties led by Rajeev Dhavan had contested the Hindu parties’ proposition that Ram Janmasthan (birthplace) itself constituted a juristic person as from time immemorial, devotees thronging Ayodhya not only worshipped Ram Lalla but also the birthplace as sacred.
Dhavan had argued that for a place or thing to be worshipped as self-incarnate (Swayambhu), it must have some divine manifestation. In the absence of any such manifestation, the birthplace could not qualify as a deity or juristic person.
Recognising the unwieldy situation that would arise in accepting Janmasthan as a deity or juristic person, the bench said: “The purpose for which juristic personality is conferred cannot be ‘evolved’ into a Trojan horse that permits, on the basis of religious faith and belief, the extinguishing of all competing proprietary claims over property as well stripping the property itself of the essential characteristic of immoveable property.”
The apex court also kept in mind Dhavan’s argument that Hindus have 33 crore deities and if every deity’s janmasthan becomes a deity or juristic person, there would hardly be any place left for other religious denominations. The bench said: “In a country like ours where contesting claims over property by religious communities are inevitable, our courts cannot reduce questions of title, which fall firmly within the secular domain and outside the rubric of religion, to a question of which community’s faith is stronger.”
‘Courts Can’t Correct Historical Wrongs’
The Supreme Court ruled that courts cannot correct historical wrongs as it rejected Hindu parties’ strenuous pleas during arguments on the Ayodhya land dispute to correct the actions of Mughal emperors of demolishing several temples, including the Ram temple at Ayodhya, for construction of mosques.
The top court said a mistake of past sovereign regimes could be corrected by courts only if the present sovereign recognised and accepted the action of the past sovereign. “Absent such recognition, the change of sovereignty is an act of state and this court cannot compel a subsequent sovereign to recognise and remedy historical wrongs,” it said.
Referring to an 1860 judgment of Privy Council on certain disputes relating to the Raja of Tanjore, the bench said, quoting the Council, “Absent a recognition by the colonial government that the consequences of the act of state were legally enforceable in municipal law, municipal courts could not entertain suits with respect to the act of state”.
The bench observed, “The common law principle which the Privy Council adopted was that municipal courts cannot enforce the law applicable between two sovereign states. The Privy Council clarified that irrespective of what international law had to say on whether the new sovereign was subrogated into the shoes of the old sovereign with respect to the legal obligations of the latter, a municipal court cannot enforce such legal obligations in the absence of express recognition of the legal obligations by the new sovereign.”
“Where there is a change of sovereignty from a former sovereign to a new sovereign, the municipal courts of the new sovereign will not enforce the legal rights of parties existing under the former sovereign absent an express recognition by the new sovereign of such legal rights,” the bench added, relying on another 1889 ruling of the Privy Council.
Referring to a Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in 1962 involving the state of Orissa (now Odisha), it said, “The Constitution Bench accepted the legal principles laid down by the Privy Council in determining the method in which the legal consequences of acts of a previous legal regime are recognised. Crucially, it does not matter that the acts pertain to public or private rights. Municipal courts will only recognise those rights and liabilities which have been recognised by the new sovereign either expressly or impliedly through conduct established by evidence,” it said.
‘Damage, demolition of Babri Masjid illegal acts’
The Supreme Court emphatically said that the communal riot that caused damage to the domes of Babri Masjid in 1934, its desecration on the night of December 22, 1949, by placing of idols and the demolition on December 6, 1992, were illegal acts, a conclusion which persuaded it to balance awarding the disputed site for Ram temple with five acres of land for a mosque in Ayodhya.
“Damage to the mosque in 1934, its desecration in 1949 leading to ouster of the Muslims and its eventual destruction on December 6, 1992, constituted a serious violation of the rule of law; and consistent with the principles of justice, equity and good conscience, both Suits 4 (Sunni Waqf Board) and 5 (by deity through next friend) will have to be decreed and relief moulded in a manner which preserves the constitutional values of justice, fraternity, human dignity and the equality of religious belief,” the bench said.
The SC noted that the fight between Hindus and Muslims for possession of the inner courtyard of Babri Masjid led to the communal conflict of 1934 during which the domes and structure of the mosque sustained damage. “The repair and renovation of the mosque following the riots of 1934 at the expense of the British administration through the agency of a Muslim contractor is indicative of the fact the despite the disputes between the communities, the structure of the mosque continued to exist as did the assertion of the Muslims of their right to pray,” it said.
“The events preceding December 22-23, 1949, indicate the build-up of a large presence of Bairagis in the outer courtyard and the expression of his apprehension by the superintendent of police that the Hindus would seek forcible entry into the precincts of the mosque to install idols. In spite of written intimations to him, the deputy commissioner and district magistrate (K K Nayyar) paid no heed and rejected the apprehension of the superintendent of police to the safety of the mosque as baseless,” the apex court noted.
“The apprehension was borne out by the incident on the night between December 22-23, 1949, when a group of 50 to 60 persons installed idols on the pulpit of the mosque below the central dome. This led to the desecration of the mosque and the ouster of the Muslims... The inner courtyard was thereafter attached in proceedings under Section 145 CrPC, 1898, on December 29, 1949 and the receiver took possession,” it recorded.
“On December 6, 1992, the structure of the mosque was brought down. The destruction of the mosque took place in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance given to this court. The destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law,” the SC said.
What the judges said
This Court, as a secular institution, set up under a constitutional regime must steer clear from choosing one among many possible interpretations of theological doctrine and must defer to the safer course of accepting the faith and belief of the worshipper. In the plural diversity of religious beliefs as they are practised in India, cultural assimilation cannot be construed as a feature destructive of religious doctrine. On the contrary, this process strengthens and reinforces the true character of a country which has been able to preserve its unity by accommodating, tolerating and respecting a diversity of religious faiths and ideas
The court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence. The law provides us with parameters as clear but as profound as ownership and possession. In deciding title to the disputed property, the court applies settled principles of evidence to adjudicate upon which party has established a claim to the immovable property
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...there is evidence to show that namaz was offered in the structure of the mosque and the last Friday namaz was on 16 December 1949. The exclusion of the Muslims from worship and possession took place on the intervening night between 22/23 December 1949 when the mosque was desecrated by the installation of Hindu idols. The ouster of the Muslims on that occasion was not through any lawful authority but through an act which was calculated to deprive them of their place of worship
Between the twelfth century to which the underlying structure is dated and the construction of the mosque in the sixteenth century, there is an intervening period of four centuries. No evidence has been placed on the record in relation to the course of human history between the twelfth and sixteen centuries. No evidence is available in a case of this antiquity on (i) the cause of destruction of the underlying structure; and (ii) whether the pre-existing structure was demolished for the construction of the mosque. Title to the land must be decided on settled legal principles and applying evidentiary standards which govern a civil trial
The setting up of a railing in 1857 by the British around the disputed structure of the mosque took place in the backdrop of a contestation and disputes over the claim of the Hindus to worship inside the precincts of the mosque. This furnished the context for the riots which took place between Hindus and Muslims in 1856-7.
The three-way bifurcation by the High Court was legally unsustainable. Even as a matter of maintaining public peace and tranquillity, the solution which commended itself to the High Court is not feasible. The disputed site admeasures all of 1500 square yards. Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity
The allotment of land to the Muslims is necessary because though on balance of probabilities, evidence regarding claim of Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by Muslims, but Muslims were dispossessed upon desecration of mosque on 22/23 December 1949 which was ultimately destroyed on 6 December 1992
Court must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied. 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
The five judges
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi
The present Chief Justice of India will be remembered for bringing the centuries-old Ayodhya land dispute to a close. Justice Gogoi held daily hearings beyond the working hours of the court, thereby ensuring that the hearing was concluded within the stipulated time and verdict delivered before his retirement on November 17.
Justice Gogoi practised mainly at Gauhati high court where he was appointed permanent judge in 2001.
He was appointed chief justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court in 2011 and was elevated as Supreme Court judge in 2012. He was appointed CJI on October 3 last year.
Justice S A Bobde
He will take over as CJI on November 18. Justice Bobde practised law at Bombay high court and Supreme Court for over 20 years before being elevated as additional judge of Bombay HC in March 2000. He became chief justice of Madhya Pradesh high court in October 2012 and was elevated as SC judge in April 2013.
Justice Ashok Bhushan
Justice Bhushan’s expertise in dealing with civil suits got him to the bench. A 1979 law graduate from Allahabad University, he was elected senior vice-president of Allahabad HC Bar Association. He was elevated as permanent judge of that high court in 2001, and was made chief justice of Kerala HC in 2015. He became an SC judge on May 13, 2016 and will retire in July 2021.
Justice S Abdul Nazeer
He practised law in Karnataka high court for over 20 years and was appointed HC judge in 2003. He was elevated to SC on February 17, 2017. He and Justice Bhushan came in after Justices N V Ramana and U U Lalit recused. He is known to be very soft spoken.
Justice D Y Chandrachud
A law graduate from Delhi university and a doctorate in juridical sciences (SJD) from Harvard Law School, Justice Chandrachud was appointed additional solicitor general of India in 1998. He was elevated as judge in Bombay HC in 2000 and was appointed chief justice of Allahabad HC in 2013. He became an SC judge in 2016. He was also a visiting professor at University of Mumbai and Oklahoma University School of Law, USA. He is in line to become CJI and will retire in 2024.
Authorship of verdict bears Justice Chandrachud’s imprint
The unanimous Ayodhya judgment, written at express speed, broke three conventions that have been followed in the Supreme Court for 70 years — a verdict always bears the name of the author, he/she alone reads it in open court and the main judgment isn’t accompanied by an “addenda”.
Though CJI Ranjan Gogoi read out the judgment, it did not carry the author’s name. Ditto for the addenda. But it was clear from the judgment’s printed version that the author was Justice D Y Chandrachud. It was a valid surmise. SC judges have their styles and use distinct fonts.
For those familiar with Chandrachud’s style, the matter was settled almost beyond reasonable doubt.
No other judge sub-divides issues involved in a case into chapters. Be it Aadhaar, right to privacy or Sabarimala, Justice Chandrachud has followed the pattern. In the Ayodhya case, the judgment had 17 chapters from ‘A’ to ‘Q’.
Addenda is a new concept tried out by the top court
A comparison of the fonts used by judges in their judgments also indicated that the 116-page addenda, attached to the 929-page unanimous verdict, was authored by Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The addenda was in the shape of a complete judgment and could well have passed off as a separate, although concurring, judgment. However, the CJI and his colleagues “decided to speak to the nation in one voice on such an important and historic issue” and prevailed upon their colleague to christen his concurring judgment as “addenda”, a new concept in the SC’s history.
The addenda, which extensively quoted Hindu scriptures and Puranas, said, “Faith and belief of the Hindus, as depicted by the evidence on record, clearly establish the Hindus’ belief that at the birthplace of Lord Ram, the mosque was constructed and three-dome structure is the birthplace of Lord Ram. The fact that Hindus were, by constructing iron wall dividing mosque premises cannot be said to alter their faith and belief regarding the birthplace of Lord Ram. The worship at the Ram Chabutra was symbolic worship of Lord Ram who was believed to be born in the premises.” “It is thus concluded that faith and belief of Hindus since prior to construction of mosque and subsequent thereto has always been that Janmasthan of Lord Ram is the place where Babri mosque has been constructed which faith and belief is proved by documentary and oral evidence discussed above.”
The order in numbers
Ayodhya (Babri Masjid, Ram Janambhoomi)- the order (Nov 2019) in numbers
At 40 days, it was SC’s 2nd longest hearing
The Ayodhya land dispute case hearing in Supreme Court lasted for 40 days, the second longest after the landmark Keshvananda Bharati case which still holds the record for being heard for 68 days by the SC from October 31, 1972, till March 23, 1973.
Keshavananda Bharti Vs State of Kerala was heard by a record 13-judge bench of the SC and its judgment — delivered on April 24, 1973, by a wafer-thin majority of seven to six —continues to hold good that the basic structure of the Constitution could not be amended by Parliament even if political parties unite in both Houses.
It was Justice H R Khanna who sided with six judges proposing impregnability of the basic structure of the Constitution, including the fundamental rights, that trumped the other six who were favouring the Indira Gandhi government’s view that Parliament by two-thirds majority in each House could amend any provision of the statute. The government hit back and made A N Ray the CJI after retirement of Justice A K Sikri by superseding three judges.
The hearing on appeals challenging the validity of Aadhaar lasted for 38 days, spanning four and a half months.
SC observation akin to Liberhan finding on ‘calculated’ demolition
Ayodhya verdict | Supreme Court observation akin to Liberhan Commission finding on ‘calculated’ demolition
The Supreme Court, which kept itself away during the Ayodhya land dispute case hearings from going into the issue of demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992, made a passing remark in its judgement about the event saying it was brought down in a “calculated act.”
The apex court noted that during the pendency of the lawsuits on the disputed land, “the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship“.
“The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago,” a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi noted in its judgement.
Though there are few lines in the judgement on the demolition, the observation was reminiscent of the commission of inquiry set up by the then P.V. Narasimha Rao government within 10 days of the demolition, which also had gave the finding that entire demolition was carried out in an “orchestrated” manner.
The then Congress government had set up a one-man inquiry commission headed by Justice M S Liberhan, who was then the sitting judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
However, Justice Liberhan gave full time to the commission only after his retirement as judge and submitted the report after 17 years during which its term was extended 48 times.
He submitted the report in June 2009, during the tenure of Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister.
After examining the deposition of top leadership of the time including former prime ministers P V Narasimha Rao and V P Singh, BJP patriarch L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and other leading lights of the Mandir movement, the Liberhan Commission in its report held the then top leadership of BJP and Sangh Parivar (R S S, VHP and Bajrang Dal) culpable for the incident of December 6, 1992.
Kalyan Singh as the Chief Minister had given an undertaking to the apex court that no damage would be allowed to be inflicted to the disputed structure by the kar sevaks.
The Commission concluded that the factual matrix of the case yields “indisputable evidence that lured by the prospect of power or wealth, a rank of leaders emerged within the BJP, R S S, VHP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal etc. who were neither guided by any ideology nor imbued with any dogma nor restrained by any moral trepidation”.
In his report, Justice Liberhan said the senior police officers were at hand to ensure that their men toed the line and that the demolition of the disputed structure was allowed to go ahead with “military precision as orchestrated by the leaders present at the spot and carried out by their henchmen.”
“To sum up, December 6, 1992 saw a state of Uttar Pradesh unwilling and unable to uphold the majesty of the law. The ennui flowed from the very office of the Chief Minister (Kalyan Singh) downwards and infected the state’s minions down till the bottom.
“The state had become a willing ally and co-conspirator in the joint common enterprise to announce the revival of a rabid breed of Hindutva, by demolishing the structure they had denounced as a symbol of Islam,” the commission said.
2011: CBI moves SC against Advani
The Central Bureau of Investigation has moved the Supreme Court challenging an Allahabad High Court order that dropped charges of criminal conspiracy against top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders including L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
In its appeal, the agency said that the high court had not come to the right conclusion and the charges of criminal conspiracy should be restored against them.
The Allahabad High Court had on May 20, 2010 dismissed the CBI plea seeking revival of criminal conspiracy charges against top BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders which also included Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Sadhvi Rithambara and Mahant Avaidya Nath.
The other leaders were former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, besides Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray.
End of Rediff item
May 2011: Supreme Court suspends High Court ruling after Hindu and Muslim groups appeal against the 2010 verdict.
2013, CBI's appeal was on brink of dismissal
The CBI succeeded in getting quashed the May 20, 2010, judgment of the Allahabad HC absolving BJP leaders L K Advani and others of conspiracy charge, but its appeal was on the brink of dismissal in 2013.
The appeal was filed on February 9, 2011, and the SC had issued notice on March 4, 2011. But on April 2, 2013, it was on the brink of dismissal as a bench asked the CBI to explain why it took eight months to file an appeal against the HC judgment. The appeal should have been filed by August 29, 2010.
In an affidavit on April 16, 2013, the CBI had said, “The delay has been occasioned because everyone associated with the matter was cautious, keeping in mind the sensitivity involved in the matter and wanted to exercise due diligence.“ It further said, “Time has been consumed because the appealing party was the state and it had to be circumspective and take all necessary steps before challenging the high court order“.
In its September 6, 2010, letter to the Central Law Agency , which coordinates filing of cases on behalf of the Union government and its agencies in the SC, the CBI had said, “Well before the deadline of August 29, 2010, the ministry of home affairs had on August 2, 2010, approved filing of the special leave petition in the SC and (seek) stay on the ongoing trials at Rae Bareli and Lucknow. However, the home minister (P Chidambaram), in a meeting held on July 28, 2010, to discuss Ayodhya trials, directed the CBI to take steps to expedite the trials in both courts.
“In view of these contrary directions, the CBI director clarified this matter with the home minister on August 24, 2010, and the home minister directed that the trial of these cases may be expedited and CBI should not pray for stay.“
The CBI, in another letter to the Central Law Agency on September 23, 2010, said, “In view of the importance and sensitivity of this matter and also as limitation period for filing the SLP has already expired, it is requested to take necessary action to expedite the same.“
The appeal was drafted on October 1, 2010, and sent for finalisation to the solicitor general. The SG wrote on January 25, 2011, saying the appeal was settled by him and that it should be filed early . The SLP was finally filed in the SC on February 9, 2011. The SC had accepted the explanation.
2015: The man who petitioned the Supreme Court
Haji Mehboob (born 1938) is a well-known figure in Ayodhya for residents as well as the journalists who travel there every so often to report on the mandir-masjid dispute.
A member of the Aman Committee, he is held in high regard but his standing was not able to prevent the arson and looting that accompanied the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. He fled to a neighbouring village relatively untouched by the tension. His Ayodhya home is just a stone’s throw from what used to be the Babri Masjid.
Asked what prompted him to petition the Supreme Court at a time when the BJP was in a full majority in the Centre and L K Advani had been awarded the Padma Bhushan just hours earlier, he replied, “I believe that there is justice and I have full faith in the Supreme Court.
Woh bikaa nahi hai. We all saw what happened in the 2010 Ayodhya verdict in the high court, which was like a bandar baant (random lottery), a gumbad (dome) each being gifted to three parties. The judgment should have clearly stated whose title it was and who was in the right. The Supreme Court on the other hand was very rational and sensible. As far as this goes, I have made this appeal hoping that justice will be done, however late and whoever may be powerful or in power.”
Haji Mehboob recalls how he moved court even when Advani’s name had been removed from the list of accused, incidentally at a time when Advani was deputy PM and home minister. “Yes, we all saw what was made possible when he was the deputy PM and home minister and was suddenly freed of charges. Zafaryab Jilani and I appealed against it in 2003 and we got justice when he was made an accused again in 2005 and had to go to the Rae Bareli court. I am hopeful that things will work out. It is not about me but the injustice done to a whole set of people would be rectified and corrected.”
2017: SC on the conspiracy charge
Suggests Jt Trial Of Advani, Uma, Joshi, Others
There are two sets of cases -one against L K Advani and other political and religious heads who were on the dais at Ram Katha Kunj in Ayodhya in December 1992 when the Babri Masjid fell, while the other case was against unknown karsevaks who had clambered on to and were around the disputed structure.
CBI filed a chargesheet against L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and 18 others under Section 153A (promoting enmity between classes), Section 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and Section 505 (false statements, rumours circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace). The agency had subsequently invoked charges under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) that were quashed by a Rae Bareli trial court against 13 persons including Advani.
The order of the trial court was upheld by the Allahabad HC and CBI thereafter approached the apex court to appeal against dropping of the conspiracy charge.
The conspiracy charge against senior BJP leaders in a Babri Masjid demolition case could be revived, with the Supreme Court noting that the charge was dropped on a technicality and suggesting joint trial of the accused.
The demolition case was back in focus in March 2017 just ahead of the final round of polling in Uttar Pradesh as a bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman said the conspiracy charge was dropped merely on a technical ground.
At that stage, the trial against BJP leaders was going on in a Rae Bareli court on charges other than conspiracy while proceedings against “unknown persons“ (kar sevaks who were around the disputed structure) are on in a Lucknow court.
Appearing for CBI [in March 2017, during the NDA regime], addi tional solicitor general Neeraj Kaul stuck to the stand taken during the tenure of the UPA government seeking revival of conspiracy charges and said the agency was agreeable to clubbing both trial proceedings.
The bench said it was prima facie of the view that conspiracy charge should not have been dropped and expressed concern over the inordinate delay in trial proceedings. It asked Kaul, appearing for the CBI, why the trials should not be clubbed together.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for Advani, opposed the plea and contended that joint trial was not possible as about 186 witnesses would have to be re-examined.
The apex court had earlier questioned CBI for delay in filing an appeal against the high court order and had said that it would first decide the maintainability of the appeal before going into the merit of the case.
2017/ SC: ‘resolve differences through negotiations’
Swamy Asked To Speak To All Parties Involved
In a surprise development, the Supreme Court on Tuesday urged the opposing parties in the Ayodhya dispute to make another attempt to resolve their differences through negotiations. Chief Justice of India J S Khehar advocated a “give and take“ approach and even offered himself as a mediator.
The sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute was back in the limelight just days after a BJP government headed by Aditya Nath Yogi took office in Uttar Pradesh.
The CJI said, “The parties must first sit together and hold a meeting cordially to agree to settle the sentimental issue through negotia tions. It is far better than fighting in court.“
The SC asked BJP MP Subramanian Swamy to talk to all parties and renew his request for early hearing of petitions on March 31. If the parties do not reach a consensus to restart negotiations, the judicial process is likely to proceed.
Swamy provided the trigger for a torrent of observations from a bench of Chief Justice Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul by seeking urgent hearing on appeals against the Allahabad HC's Sep tember 30, 2010 judgment which divided the disputed land into three equal parts between Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and `Ram Lalla', the idol.
The SC had stayed the high court verdict on May 9, 2011 with the judges on the bench -Aftab Alam and R M Lodha -terming the decision strange as no party to the suits had claimed relief on the lines decided by the ruling. The contestants to the disputed sites clearly did not accept the HC's formulation.
When Swamy mentioned the petitions for early hea ring, the CJI said it was not difficult to list the case and decide the issue judicially . “But this is not one of those issues which can be decided in a huff.Given the sensitivity attached to the issues in question, it is best to settle the differences through negotiations between parties. All must adopt a `give a bit and take a bit' approach to find a solution to this issue,“ the CJI said.
Swamy said several attempts had been made in the past to find a negotiated settlement to the vexed issue that has been festering for nearly 70 years but the CJI said it wo uld do no harm if the parties sat together and chalked out a format for negotiation and informed the court about it.
Justice Khehar took most by surprise when he offered his service as principal mediator for negotiators chosen by parties to the dispute to facilitate talks.
“If parties want me to do the job, I will not hear this case and take up that task. If the parties want a brother judge, I am ready to provide him for facilitating the negotiation process,“ he said. This is significant, as it would be for the first time the SC has ex pressed willingness to provide a sitting judge as facilitator of negotiations between parties to find a solution to the dispute which is shrouded in competing claims, which includes the alleged placing of idols of Ram and other gods in the central dome of the disputed structure on December 23, 1949.
“If you want, the parties can choose negotiators of their choice for this purpose.These issues are best settled by sitting jointly . We can decide the issue judicially and our order will bind all parties.But such sensitive issues are best decided through negotiations by adopting a give and take policy,“ the CJI said.
Allahabad HC had taken into account pleadings by all parties as well as findings of the Archaeological Survey of India, which was tasked to identify whether the disputed structure was built on a temple by Mughal king Babur in the 16th century .
All three judges of the HC bench wrote separate judgments but the common point in the majority judgment was that the 2.7 acres of land, on which the disputed structure was located before its demolition on December 6, 1992, would be divided equally between Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the idol of `Ram Lalla', which was considered a legal entity.
Immediately after demolition of the Babri Masjid by `kar sevaks' on December 6, 1992, the central government had in 1993 persuaded Parliament to enact the Ayodhya Act to acquire the entire 67.03 acres of land around the disputed structure. The SC had ordered status quo in the 67.03 acres while allowing worship of `Ram Lalla' in a makeshift temple near the demolished structure. In its May 9, 2011 interim order, the court had reiterated the status quo.
2017: Advani, Joshi, Uma to be tried again for Babri conspiracy
Proceedings To Be Wrapped Up in Two Yrs: SC
In a serious setback to BJP veterans, the Supreme Court resurrected criminal conspiracy charges against L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and others in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition case and set a two-year deadline for conclusion of trial.
Adopting a tough `let justice be done though the heavens fall' line in the appeal filed by the CBI in the politically sen sitive case, a bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman on Wednesday invoked the power vested in it under Article 142 of the Constitu tion to transfer the trial against the BJP functionaries from Rae Bareli to Lucknow. SC’s decision means that two trials — conspiracy charges against Sangh leaders and a case dealing with the demolition of Babri Masjid — will proceed simultaneously.
The court ordered charges to be framed in four weeks, daytoday trial and fixed a two-year deadline for the Lucknow court to pronounce judgment in both cases. It also said there would be no de novo (fresh) trial and that matters would proceed from the stage where they have reached. Frowning at frequent transfers of trial judges assigned to the case, the SC said the trial judge would not be mo ved and directed the CBI to ensure presence of witnesses.
Quashing a May 2010 order of the Allahabad HC that absolved senior BJP leaders of the criminal conspiracy charge, the bench said, “The court of sessions (in Lucknow) will frame within four weeks an additional charge under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) against Advani, Joshi, Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambara, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamandaleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma alias Prem and Dr S C Nagar.”
Some of the accused are dead. Framing of conspiracy charge against the BJP leaders means they will be liable to face trial for offences committed by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992, when the mosque was demolis hed. The trial of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray has abated after his death.
The SC said since the alleged offences committed by BJP leaders and kar sevaks were adjopart of the same intent to carry out the alleged conspiracy, trials could not have been separated, irrespective of the fact that 49 different FIRs were lodged.
“That being the case, it is clear that the said accused could not possibly have been discharged, as they were already arrayed as accused insofar as the charge of criminal conspiracy was concerned, which would be gone into by the special judge, Lucknow, while dealing with the offences made out in FIR No. 197 of 1992 (against kar sevaks),” the SC said. Writing the 40-page no frills judgment for the bench, Justice Nariman said the trial court will conclude proceedings in two years by conducting day-to-day hearing.
It imposed tough conditions for completion of trial in two years that could restrict the options of defence lawyers seeking loopholes. “The trial court will, after transfer of proceedings from Rae Bareli to Lucknow and framing of additional charges, within four weeks, take up all the matters on a day-to-day basis from the stage at which the trial proceedings, both at Rae Bareli and at Lucknow, are continuing, until conclusion of the trial,” it said.
“There shall be no de novo trial. There shall be no transfer of the judge conducting the trial until the entire trial concludes. The case shall not be adjo mourned on any ground except when the sessions court finds it impossible to carry on the trial for that particular date. In such an event, on grant of adjournment to the next day or a closely proximate date, reasons for the same shall be recorded in writing,” the bench said.
The court also put the CBI to strict terms. “The CBI shall ensure that on every date fixed for evidence, some prosecution witnesses must remain present, so that for want of witnesses the matter be not adjourned,” it said and permitted all parties before the trial court to move the SC “in the event of these directions not being carried out, both in letter and spirit”.
2018: SC rejects Muslim plea for 5-judge bench; directs early hearings
The Supreme Court removed the roadblocks for early hearing of seven-year-old appeals challenging the Allahabad high court’s decision to divide the 2.77 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya equally among three parties by rejecting the pleas of Muslim parties to refer to a five-judge bench the appeals as well as a contentious remark in a 1994 SC judgment that a “mosque is not essential to Islam or offering of namaz”.
It ordered commencement of hearing on the appeals from the week beginning October 29 in what can brighten the prospect for resolution of the vexed issue of ownership of the disputed Ayodhya site next year, perhaps even before Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April-May.
During the arguments that started on December 5 last year, when the CJI-led bench was told that it would take at least one year for completion of arguments given the voluminous documents as well as other evidence, the bench had asked, “Arguments on the title suits before the Allahabad HC took only 90 days and the appeals will go on for a year?”
On Thursday, a bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer by 2-1 majority said, “We are of the considered opinion that no case is made out to refer the 1994 Constitution bench judgment of this court in Ismail Faruqui for reconsideration. We make it clear that questionable observations made in Faruqui’s case were made in the context of land acquisition. Those observations were neither relevant for deciding the (title) suits (in Allahabad HC) nor relevant for deciding these appeals.” However, Justice Nazeer stuck a dissenting note to the majority verdict that Justice Bhushan wrote for himself and CJI Misra.
He mentioned a three-judge bench’s order on September 24 which had referred petitions seeking a ban on the Dawoodi Bohra community’s practice of female genital mutilation to a five-judge bench and said that the Ayodhya land dispute, as well as the remark in the Faruqui judgment, raised an important constitutional question deserving reference to a larger bench. The Muslim parties had argued that a five-judge bench needed to hear the issue raised by the 1994 judgment about the essentiality of mosques to Islam before getting down to adjudicate the appeals against the Allahabad HC order.
The court turned down the argument and said an unnecessary controversy had been sought to be created by generalising the remark that “a mosque is not essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in the open”.
It said the remark was made in the context of the acquisition of the site where Babri Masjid stood, and to rebut the argument that mosques enjoyed immunity from acquisition of land by the government.
‘5-judge benches heard cases less important, so why not this one?’
Justice S Abdul Nazeer penned a dissent and said if the Supreme Court could refer petitions challenging polygamy and nikah halala, Ramleela and puja in public parks, and female genital mutilation to five-judge benches, the Ayodhya land dispute and Ismail Faruqui case remark should also be referred to a constitution bench.
“It is clear that questionable observations in Ismail Faruqui have certainly permeated the impugned (Allahabad HC) judgment. Thus, the impugned judgment can be claimed to be both expressly and inherently affected by the questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui,” Justice Nazeer said.
“Further, Ismail Faruqui prima facie leads a different approach regarding the application of essential and/or integral test which also needs to be resolved as a matter of constitutional significance. In my view, Ismail Faruqui needs to be brought in line with the authoritative pronouncements in Shirur Mutt and other decisions,” he said in his order, diametrically opposite to the views of CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Ashok Bhushan, to refer the Ayodhya land dispute as well as Faruqui remark to a five-judge bench.
He appeared to accept the arguments of senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan and Dushyant Dave that when less important issues were referred to constitution benches, why not give similar credence to the most important issue before the nation.
“A three-judge bench led by CJI Misra on March 26 had referred a petition by Sameena Begum and others challenging matters relating to polygamy, including nikah halala, nikah mutah and nikah misya, to a constitution bench,” Justice Nazeer said. He added that on July 6, a two-judge bench had referred a petition by Jyoti Jagran Mandal to test the validity of permission given to Ramleela and pujas once a year in public parks to a five-judge bench. He also highlighted a threeday-old decision by a threejudge bench led by CJI Misra to refer to a constitution bench a bunch of petitions led by Sunita Tiwari, which sought a ban on female genital mutilation (FGM). Justice Nazeer said, “Considering the constitutional importance of the issues (in the plea relating to Ayodhya and Ismail Faruqui judgment remark), the following need to be referred to larger bench.”
Despite many an attempt for negotiated settlement on the 2.77 acre land at Ram janambhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed site going awry in the last 25 years, the SC on Tuesday decided for the first time to invoke powers under Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code and employ courtappointed mediation process to solve the vexed issue.
Section 89 provides: “Where it appears to the court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the court shall formulate the terms of settlement and give them to the parties for their observations and after receiving the observations of the parties, the court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for arbitration, conciliation, judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat, or mediation.”
After demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, the Centre had acquired the disputed land as well as 67 acres surrounding it through a law. When its validity was challenged in the SC, the Centre had sent a Presidential Reference asking the SC to determine whether a Hindu temple pre-existed the demolished mosque. The P V Narasimha Rao government had told the SC on September 14, 1994 that once the SC answered the Reference, it would make efforts to resolve the controversy through negotiations.
In Ismail Faruqui judgement on October 24, 1994, the SC upheld validity of acquisition of Ayodhya land but had said: “This is a matter suited essentially to resolution by negotiations which does not end in a winner or loser, while adjudication leads to that end. It is in the national interest that there is no loser at the end of the process adopted for resolution so that the final outcome does not leave behind any rancour in anyone. This can be achieved by a negotiated solution on the basis of which a decree can be obtained in terms of such solution in these suits. Unless a solution is found which leaves everyone happy, that cannot be beginning for continued harmony between ‘we the people of India’.”
There were some negotiations, as the judgement records, between VHP and All India Babri Masjid Action Committee, which broke down at a crucial phase. A significant effort for a negotiated settlement was made by Kanchi Shankaracharya in 2003. But it broke down after his July 1, 2003 letter to All India Muslim Personal Law Board stating: “Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya - all three belong to Hindus and keeping in mind the larger interest of the country and communal harmony, if not today, but at some time or other, these places have to be given to the Hindus. The Muslims have to mentally prepare themselves for this.”
A significant effort for a negotiated settlement was made by Kanchi Shankaracharya in 2003. But it broke down after his letter to All India Muslim Personal Law Board
1994, 2003, 2017
Attempts at mediation on Ayodhya dispute, 1994, 2003, 2017
1994-2019: Four failed mediation attempts
Any glimmer of hope for a negotiated settlement to the long-pending dispute over the ownership of the 2.77-acre Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land in Ayodhya faded with the Supreme Court-appointed highlevel mediation panel on Thursday expressing its inability to resolve the issue.
A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazir will take up the matter on Friday and could fix a schedule for commencement of day-to-day hearing on a bunch of appeals challenging the Allahabad high court’s September 30, 2010 verdict which divided the disputed land into three equal parts — one part each to Ram Lalla (idol), Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board.
The mediation panel, comprising former SC judge FMI Kalifulla, well-known mediator and senior advocate Sriram Panchu and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar, which was given a fortnight on July 18 by the SC to make a last-ditch attempt for a negotiated settlement, conveyed that they had failed to strike a consensus among rival parties and it was time to wind up the mediation process.
During the 155-day-long negotiation process held in Faizabad since March 8, the panel held numerous meetings with various people and parties connected to the dispute despite steadfast opposition from Hindu parties, who have filed appeals in the SC. The Muslim parties had said in the SC that they supported a negotiated settlement.
The panel, sources said, detailed its earnest efforts to bring the rival parties together and its success in getting moderates on both sides to agree to sit across the table to negotiate a solution. However, the panel said it failed to convince the hardliners on both sides to do the same.
Four mediation attempts have failed since 1994
On July 18, the five-judge bench led by CJI Gogoi had asked the panel to submit a status report on the negotiation process and indicated that, if required, it would pass orders for the schedule for commencement of hearing on the appeals pending in the SC for the last nine years.
The panel had on July 18 conveyed to the SC that it hoped to bring extreme elements on both sides to the negotiating table.
The Allahabad HC had decided the title suits and divided the core disputed land into three equal parts. All three awardees and others challenged the HC verdict, saying it was not the prayer of any of the parties for a three-way division of the disputed land.
Ever since the SC said in the Ismail Faruqui judgment on October 24, 1994 that the Ayodhya land dispute “is a matter suited essentially to resolution by negotiations which does not end in a winner or loser”, there have been four failed attempts in this direction.
2001: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Back in 2001, when I returned to India after speaking at the World Economic Forum, Atal Behari Vajpayee ji requested me to step in and initiate talks with the stakeholders in the Ayodhya dispute. At his behest, I met a number of prominent Muslim leaders and other influential members of the community, including Saeed Naqvi, AIMPLB member Kamal Farooqui, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar. Most of the leaders were supportive of resolving the conflict peacefully, outside the ambit of politics. Though we were engaged in seemingly fruitful discussions, I believed that the resolution of this issue would take longer than anticipated.
This led me to counsel Ashok Singhal ji, then president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, to have patience and pray, when we met on his visit to our ashram. He had come to Bangalore to meet me soon after the talks between the Kanchi Shankaracharya and Muslim leaders in New Delhi, had failed. Ashokji wanted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to decisively clear the path for the Ram Mandir. This was his one-point agenda.
However Ashok ji was not on talking terms with the Prime Minister at the time, especially resentful after Vajpayee ji had coerced him into eating during his fast unto death over the Ayodhya issue. Therefore, he was in Bangalore to persuade me to convince Vajpayeeji to bring in legislation and end the Ram Janmabhoomi conflict once and for all. He was 76 then, with a sharp mind, and a spark of passion and determination in his eyes.
Some of his demands seemed impractical given that the government at the time depended on coalition support and not everyone was on the same page on the issue. “I don’t care even if it leads to the collapse of the government.” he said. I replied saying, “Pray for it. With your commitment, all is possible.” Ashok ji left unconvinced. At that point, I intuitively felt it would take more like 14 years to build but I didn’t share my thoughts with anyone. The next morning during meditation, I had a vision of an old Devi temple with a pond that needed to be resurrected. At the time, I didn’t give it much importance. A few days later a Nadi astrologer from Chennai happened to visit the ashram. This elderly gentleman hailed from a family that for many generations had guarded the ancient scriptures and palm leaves containing the future of humans as foreseen by the sages of yore.
The Nadi reader said, “Gurudev, you will have to play a role in bringing both the communities together for the Ram Janmabhoomi matter to be resolved once and for all.” He then added that the Kuladevi of Shri Rama, Devkali, has a temple in Ayodhya and that the temple was in a highly dilapidated state. Unless the Devi was propitiated and the temple fully restored, the Ayodhya dispute would not end and violence would continue.
As none of those present were aware of such a Devkali mandir, a few local people were asked to find out whether such a temple even existed in Ayodhya. It was soon discovered that there were indeed two Kali mandirs in the area - one in the heart of the city called the Chhoti devkali Mandir and the other a little further away called the Devkali Mandir. The latter was in a ruinous state. It had a central pond that had become a dumping ground. We decided to renovate the Devi temple and rejuvenate the pond.
At that time, Ayodhya was a severely neglected city with unclean narrow lanes. A sense of fear prevailed as the place abounded with stories of killings of sadhus and sants over the long-standing conflict. Nobody dared to speak up for these renunciates who had no designated ashrams, no family and no social standing.
The restoration work of Devi temple was completed in a few months and we went in a large group to Ayodhya for the reconsecration ceremony. Several pandits from our Bangalore ashram conducted the reconsecration of the temple deity and a Chandi Homa was performed on September 19, 2002. B K Modi and Ashok Ji also took part in the event. From time immemorial the Devatas have been worshipped in every part of India because of their influence on the affairs on this plane of existence.
Later that evening the temple hosted a large congregation of saints, including Ramchandra Das Paramhans Ji, Mahanta of the Digambar Akhada and head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. A few Sufi saints were also invited. The Muslim leaders presented me with a copy of Ramcharitmanas and spoke of their deep reverence for Lord Shri Rama.
Enough lives had been lost in this age-old conflict and we needed a resolution that would stand the test of time. Keeping this in mind I proposed an out-of-court settlement where the Muslim community would gift the Ram Janmabhoomi to the Hindus as a goodwill gesture and the Hindus in return would gift a 5-acre land for the construction of a mosque that they would help build. This would send a clear message of brotherhood between both communities.
The next day I was invited by Ashok Ji to his ancestral home in Allahabad where his brothers, their families and his friends had gathered. After I conducted a group meditation for them, I told Ashok Ji that it is not human effort alone, but the Divine Will too, that plays a role in the fructification of any action. And for that, one needs patience. I hinted to him that he should not do anything in haste. By the end of the evening, Ashok Ji seemed much more relaxed and reassured, and he softened in his stand against the Vajpayee government.
Years went by. In 2017, at the request of leaders from both communities I renewed my efforts to mediate in the Ram Janmabhoomi matter. From then on, one thing led to another and today Ayodhya is on the way to reclaiming its lost glory. Thanks to the efforts of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji and the government of Yogi Adityanath ji, the once gloomy temple town is getting a vibrant and shining makeover of progress, prosperity and spiritual elevation.
It is said Daivadheenam Jagat sarvam, the entire world is governed by Gods. All the elements in life that we think to be in our control are in fact guided by the devas. Navratri is the time to invoke the infallible and compassionate Daivi Shakti.
2019: first mediation with court sanction
Supreme Court’s verdict on setting up a three-member panel for mediation to resolve the contentious Ayodhya dispute, takes the clock 30 years back, when a similar exercise was initiated for the first time, but made no headway. Eight prime ministers in the past tried this route, but failed.
The only difference in drawing an outcome through mutual dialogue is that in 1990, it was inspired by the Central government and this time it has been led by Supreme Court.
A formal process of negotiation was first taken up in 1986 between then Kanchi Shankaracharya and then president of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi, popularly known as Ali Miyan.
“Ali Miyan spoke to the Shankaracharya, who was ready to become a receiver in the dispute and initiate talks while the court case continued. A proposal was to be made and board members were ready for talks, but the Shankaracharya backed out and apologised for not taking up the role, citing pressure from various corners,” said convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee ( BMAC), Zafaryab Jilani. “This mediation ordered by SC, will be the first with legal sanctity,” said Jilani.
In 1990, then prime minister VP Singh initiated the first out-of-court settlement through some officers, but before he could formalise the process he was dislodged and Chandra Shekhar succeeded him as PM.
In 1991, Chandra Shekhar kickstarted the out-of-court settlement process by deputing controversial godman Chandraswami, who held a series of meetings with both parties. Then minister of state for home Subodh Kant Sahay constituted a high-power committee comprising three chief ministers — Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sharad Pawar and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat — for the purpose. But before he could make any impact, Parliament was dissolved and fresh elections held.
In 1992, PV Narasimha Rao resumed the dialogue process. And again Chandraswami was the interlocutor. But by the time talks could mature, VHP made an appeal for kar sewa leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid, halting the out-of-court process for a long period and both parties hardened their stands further.
In 2000-02, Atal Bihari Vajpayee resumed the discussions between the two parties by formally opening an Ayodhya cell in the PMO and chaired a series of meetings between VHP and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. Kunal Kishore, a senior IPS officer, played the anchor role in the mediation process, but the process again proved an exercise in futility.
The AIMPLB was again approached by the new Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham in 2002-2003, who came to Lucknow’s Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama with a slew of proposals. Few points of the proposal were rejected by AIMPLB. While no overt moves were made during the Manmohan Singh regime, Justice (retired) Pulak Basu of the Allahabad High Court led a signature campaign in 2010, drawing a conclusion that the mediation process should be left to local people of Ayodhya.
CJI, CJI-designate and Justice got unprecedented briefing from UP’s CS, DGP on law and order measures
Ahead of the ruling in the Ayodhya land dispute case, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, CJI-designate S A Bobde and Justice Ashok Bhushan got an unprecedented briefing from UP’s chief secretary and director general of police on steps taken to ensure law and order in Ayodhya.
Despite comforting words from Hindu and Muslim leaders to the faithful to take the verdict with equanimity and peace, the CJI and the two other judges thought it fit to understand from the top bureaucrat and policeman about deployment of security forces in sensitive areas to prevent any untoward situation in Ayodhya or any part of the state.
The judges are part of the five-judge bench which will deliver its verdict on the case on Saturday. The other two judges are Justices D Y Chandrachud and S Abdul Nazeer.
The chief secretary and the DGP informed the CJI, in a closed-door meeting that lasted more than an hour, about deployment of over 4,000 paramilitary forces in Ayodhya. The judges were also informed that Rapid Action Force would keep continuous vigil at 78 hotspots identified by the administration going by past experience of such situations.
The top SC judges were also briefed about crowd management during the Kartik Purnima snan (bath) falling on November 11, for which thousands of devotees have descended on the temple town. The chief secretary informed that the state has issued warnings against circulation of fake news, morphed pictures, doctored videos or any inflammatory material, which would attract strong penal action.
What prompted the judges to assure themselves about the steps on the law and order situation with regard to the Ayodhya verdict is not difficult to guess. Prior to demolition of the disputed structure in December 1992, the UP government had acquired the land around the structure for construction of amenities for pilgrims. This was challenged both in Allahabad HC and the SC and both had passed status quo orders as regards the land.
However, despite an undertaking given by then CM Kalyan Singh to maintain status quo, large-scale construction of a permanent nature were carried out on the land in Ayodhya to facilitate ‘parikrama’ facilities for pilgrims in complete disregard of the SC’s November 15, 1991 order. Later, the devotees constructed a platform at the disputed site.
The apex court held Kalyan Singh guilty of contempt on October 24, 1994, and said: “It is unhappy that a leader of a political party and chief minister has to be convicted of an offence of contempt of court. But it has to be done to uphold the majesty of law.” The SC sentenced him to a day’s imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 2,000.
Ownership of the land, undisputed and disputed
How VHP got to own 43 acres
VHP’s 43 acres of undisputed land in Ayodhya
Nirmohi Akhara’s stand: 1993-2019 April
Nirmohi Akhara, which along with Ram Lalla and Sunni Wakf Board was given one-third of the 2.77-acre core disputed land in Ayodhya by the Allahabad high court, moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday opposing the Centre’s surprise move for return of the surplus 67 acres to its original owners.
On January 28, the Centre had filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking return of 67 acres of surplus land, except the 2.77-acre disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land to its original owners, including Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, which owns 42 acres.
Akhara diverged from other Hindu claimants earlier also
The land in question was acquired by the Union government through the ‘Acquisition of Certain Areas at Ayodhya Ordinance’ on January 7, 1993, in the wake of the demolition of Babri Masjid in what was seen as an attempt to preempt any construction by the Nyas in the immediate vicinity of the disputed site. The ordinance was later replaced by an Act bearing the same nomenclature.
Opposing the Centre’s application, Nirmohi Akhara said it was the owner of Sumitra Bhawan and the adjacent land, Sita Koop, Sita Koop Mandir, Dwaraka Das Mandir, Saligram Bhagwan temple and Lomas temple, all of which were demolished by the state government after acquisition of the surplus 67 acres in 1993. It said which party is entitled to what part of the disputed area would be known only when the title suit was decided. Proper utilisation of the surplus land for amenities like approach road and pilgrim facilities could be worked out only once that stage was crossed, it added. “At present, it is not known who will be the ultimate successful party and, therefore, it cannot at present be assessed what the extent of superfluous area will be,” it said. It is not the first time that Nirmohi Akhara has diverged from the stand of other Hindu claimants to the disputed site.
During hearing of the appeals against the Allahabad HC judgment dividing the core disputed land into three equal parts, the SC had suggested mediation as an alternative mechanism to resolve the 70-year-old litigation.
2019, March: Sunni board was ready to give up claim
The Sunni Central Waqf Board, which was a key litigant in the Ayodhya title suit, had offered a settlement formula to resolve the issue in its letter to Supreme Court in March 2019, stating it was ready to relinquish its claim over the disputed site in larger interest of national harmony in lieu of a mosque at an alternative site. TOI is in possession of a copy of the settlement offer, which was sent to the Supreme Court after the mediation process was initiated by the court-appointed Justice Kalifulla-led mediation panel.
TOI had reported on October 17 that the panel had informed the SC that the Muslim parties were willing to give up their claim on the disputed site if some conditions were met, including construction of a mosque at an alternative site.
Para 5 of the Sunni Central Waqf Board’s settlement offer states, “Sunni Waqf Board, first and main plaintiff, has no objection in relinquishing all rights, interests and claims over the land and is entering into this settlement in larger interest of harmony. The board confirms there’s no bar on acquisition of the land by the central government under Section 51 (1-A of Waqf Act, 1995, or any other law). The board may build a mosque at another suitable place, keeping in view requirements of local Muslims.”
Para 14 clearly says, “The court may also consider using the settlement as the foundation for its order and decree under Article 142 of Constitution and do justice by bringing a comprehensive, effective and harmonious end to the dispute.” For relinquishing its claim, the Sunni Waqf Board put riders, including allowing namaz at ASI-controlled mosques. “In view of the extraordinary initiative by parties in national interest and in special circumstances of this case, parties plead to this court to exercise powers to direct ASI to permit regular namaz at select mosques under ASI control in Ayodhya. And for this, a committee of experts be formed to work out the modalities,” the letter stated.
It also requested security by the Centre for office-bearers of Sunni Waqf Board, other parties and their advocates.
The Babri demolition case
Delays, then fast tracking:1992-2020
Special judge SK Yadav on Wednesday took just five minutes for acquittal of 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case which had seen 28 years of legal journey. And, had the Supreme Court not played an active role, it could have continued for several more years.
The SC on April 19, 2017, reignited and fast-tracked the case that was dragging on for a quarter of a century in the labyrinth of legalities.
Apart from setting a deadline for completion of the trial, the SC not only clubbed the two cases related to the same act by using extraordinary powers granted to it under Article 142 of the Constitution, but also revived conspiracy charge against LK Advani and restored trial of 13 others saffron stalwarts against whom CBI had dropped all charges about a decade ago.
The seeds of delay were sowed by the Congress government led by PV Narasimha Rao that indirectly ruled the state after imposition of President’s rule. About 49 cases were lodged by the police on December 6, 1992. However, instead of allotting all the cases to one agency, the state government gave the kar sewak (197) case to CBI, state’s CB-CID was asked to probe the speech case (198). A special court in Lalitpur was created for trial which was later shifted to Rae Bareli on July 8, 1993.
Eight months after the incident, UP government realised that all the cases should be probed by one agency and entrusted CBI with the job on August 26, 1993. However, within 15 days, another complication was introduced when the government created a special court in Lucknow for trial of kar sewak case, while speech case remained in Rae Bareli court.
2019/ Babri Demolition Case, ruling
Here are the top highlights from the judgment in the cross-appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim sides challenging the three-way partition of the disputed 2.77 acres of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land.
Temple on disputed site; Alternative land for mosque
The Supreme Court granted the entire disputed land in Ayodhya for temple construction.
SC directed Centre and UP govt to allot 5 acres of land to Muslims at a prominent place in Ayodhya for building a mosque.
A trust to be set up
SC directed Centre to formulate a scheme for forming a trust within 3 months for construction of a temple at the site. The land must be handed over to the trust. Till the Trust is formed, the ownership of the site will rest with the Centre.
‘Mosque wasn’t abandoned’
The court upheld the belief of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the disputed site in Ayodhya. It also upheld that the mosque was neither abandoned nor seceded by the Muslims.
“Iron railing was set up at site in 1856-1857, it suggests Hindus kept worshipping at the site. Evidence suggest Hindus were in possession of outer court yard.”
ASI had not established whether temple was demolished
“The fact that there lied a structure beneath the destroyed structure has been established by the ASI. ASI had not established whether temple was demolished to build the mosque.”
SC said that terming the archaeological evidence as merely an opinion would be a great disservice to the ASI.
Shia Wakf Board’s claim dismissed
The Bench dismissed the Shia Wakf Board's petition claiming the disputed site belonged to them.
'Muslims not able to establish ownership of the land'
“Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board has failed to establish its case in Ayodhya dispute; Muslims have not adduced evidence they were in exclusive possession of dispute site,” the SC said.
“Babri mosque was not built on vacant land. The underlying structure was not an Islamic structure.” “Damage to Babri mosque was violation of law,” the apex court added.
Akhara’s suit dismissed
The suit filed by Nirmohi Akhara for sherbaiti rights has been time barred and hence dismissed. The court said the Akhara might be made a part of the Trust.
Places of Worship Act
The Supreme Court refers to Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, which prohibits conversion of any place of worship, to say that all religions are equal.
At the heart of the Constitution is the commitment to equality. Constitution does not distinguish between one faith and another, says the CJI.
SC veered towards unanimity after hearings ended
The five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court veered towards a unanimous decision on the Ayodhya dispute soon after the arguments concluded on October 16, though each judge had been meticulously taking down notes and preparing to write a judgment on his own from the day the hearings began on August 6.
Once the unanimity of view was achieved, one of the judges was entrusted the task of writing the judgment. The first draft was ready late on November 3 and was circulated among the judges the next day. The judges exchanged their views, suggested additions and deletions as well as alterations in the final draft. The final judgment was ready for pronouncement.
The Supreme Court bench decided to announce the verdict on Saturday after the five judges learned first-hand from police officials as well as from the Union home secretary and Intelligence Bureau chief that adequate security arrangements had been put in place to deal with possible law and order disruptions as well as angry response from some quarters.
Judges decided to use element of surprise
CJI Ranjan Gogoi, CJIdesignate SA Bobde and Justices DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer sought to know from Union home secretary A K Bhalla and Intelligence Bureau chief Arvind Kumar about the situation on the ground across the country and, especially, if there was a possibility of trouble from either of the two communities locked in the fight for the Ayodhya site.
While the intelligence chief said there was no threat of any trouble, the home secretary briefed them about adequate security arrangements being made by the Centre and states to prevent any untoward incident. After meeting the Intelligence Bureau chief and home secretary, the CJI and other judges also called Uttar Pradesh’s chief secretary and DGP to understand whether there was possibility of a trouble after the judgment.
Both assured judges that there was no apprehension of any law and order situation. Reassured by the feedback from the ground, the CJI and other judges decided to use the element of surprise and pronounce the verdict.
The first draft of the unanimous judgment was ready late on November 3 and it was circulated among the judges the next day. The judges exchanged their views, suggested additions and deletions as well as alterations in the final draft by Wednesday. And by Thursday, the final judgment was ready for pronouncement. But preparation for writing the judgment was undertaken by each of the five judges right from the day the hearing began on August 6.
Evidence reinforced faith-tradition: SC
The presence of symbols of Hindu religious significance inside and outside the Babri Masjid, which were acknowledged by Muslim witnesses, suggested actual worship took place down the centuries and large congregations visited the disputed site during festivals, the Supreme Court has said.
The SC’s observations in its verdict on the Ayodhya case, bolster the argument that the Hindu community persisted with its claim to worship and the evidences gathered by the Archaeological Survey of India pointed to a religious structure of Hindu origin.
“The oral testimony of Hindu devotees establishes the pattern of worship and prayer at Sita Rasoi, Ramchabutra and towards the ‘garb grih’, while standing at the railing of the structure of the brick wall,” the court has said. The argument that the Ayodhya site’s significance went beyond faith alone, is important even as the court held that the ASI report could not be used to settle a title suit.
The judgement evaluates faith-tradition, ASI evidences, traveller accounts and witnesses to state that the presence of a masjid did not deter Hindus from continuing their worship at the disputed site and within the precincts of the structure prior to the incidents of 1856-57 (when riots broke out over access to the plot).
“The physical structure of an Islamic mosque did not shake the faith and belief of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the disputed site. On the other hand, learned counsel fairly stated that the evidence relied on by the Sunni Wakf Board to establish the offering of namaz by the Muslim residents commences from around 1856-57,” the SC ruled.
The accounts mentioned by the court have often been part of BJP’s political campaign where the party has argued that the site is of much more significance to the Hindus than a mosque at Ayodhya was to Muslims. Records of travellers indicate, said the court, that there was “historical presence of worshippers and the existence of worship at the disputed site even prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British and the construction of a brick-grill wall in 1857.” The wall was built by the British colonial administration to separate the inner and outer courtyards and restrict access of Hindu devotees.
While the ruling notes that the ASI report does not conclude that remnants of the preexisting structure were used for the purpose of constructing the mosque or there was an act of razing, it notes a reasonable inference can be drawn that foundations of the mosque is based on the walls of a pre-existing structure. This underlying structure was suggestive of Hindu religious origin.
2020: All accused acquitted
A special CBI court acquitted all 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, giving major relief to saffron stalwarts like former deputy PM L K Advani, former UP CM Kalyan Singh, former Union minister M M Joshi, former MP CM Uma Bharti, Bajrang Dal founder Vinay Katiyar and three BJP MPs — Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Lallu Singh and Sakshi Maharaj.
In his order running into 2,300 pages, the judge, Surendra Kumar Yadav, said the demolition was not pre-planned and was the handiwork of “arajak tattva (unruly element )” among the kar sevaks.
Also, the CBI couldn’t prove that the accused Sangh Parivar functionaries were behind any conspiracy to demolish the 16th-century structure on December 6, 1992.
He said the CBI could not produce any conclusive evidence against any accused. “Even VHP leader late Ashok Singhal was trying to stop kar sevaks from demolishing the disputed structure because the idol of Lord Ram was also inside the structure,” the judge wrote in the verdict, delivered on the last day of his tenure. The court also accepted the defence's plea that Ram Lalla’s idols were not removed from the mandir-masjid complex and it was left to the priest, Satyendra Das, to take those out at the last moment, showing that the accused had no plans to demolish the structure.
Dec: SC rejects all review pleas
The Supreme Court dismissed all the 18 petitions seeking review of its November 9 Ayodhya land dispute verdict, all but casting in stone its 1,045-page judgement awarding the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site for a Ram Temple and five acres at an alternative location to the Sunni waqf board for construction of a mosque.
All the petitions seeking review of the SC’s unanimous verdict were placed before a bench of CJI S A Bobde and Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna (who filled the vacant slot in Constitution bench after retirement of then CJI Ranjan Gogoi). The bench divided the petitions into two categories — those filed by persons who were parties to any of the four title suits and others who were not but sought permission to file review petitions.
Petitions filed by entities who were parties to any of the title suits — Gopal Singh Visharad (1950), Nirmohi Akhara (1959), Sunni waqf board (1961) and Ram Lalla Virajman (1989) — were discussed in detail by the five judges in chamber without the presence of lawyers representing any party, as is the norm for preliminary hearing on review petitions.
After deliberating on review petitions filed by some of the parties to the title suits, the bench ordered: “Applications for listing of Review Petitions in open Court are dismissed. We have carefully gone through the Review Petitions and connected papers filed therewith. We do not find any ground, whatsoever, to entertain the same. The Review Petitions are, accordingly, dismissed.”
This leaves litigants, who were parties to any of the title suits, with a small window in ‘curative petitions’ for seeking reversal of the November 9 verdict. However, given the trend of dismissal of curative petitions, there is a very bleak chance of the SC reopening the 70-year-old litigation for a fresh hearing.
On the second category of petitions, which included petitioners like a “group of 40 intellectuals” who are not party to any of the title suits, the bench declined permission to even file a review petition. The fear expressed by the judges was that permitting non-parties would open flood-gates of litigation as it would allow any citizen to file pleas seeking a review of Ayodhya judgment, and for that matter any order.
Dhavan’s expertise couldn’t be utilised as SC rejects plea
Those who filed the non-party review petition included historian Irfan Habib, economist Prabhat Patnaik and activists Harsh Mander and Nandini Sundar.
Filing of petition by M Siddiq through advocate Ijaz Maqbool seeking review of Ayodhya verdict had led to an unpleasant controversy as senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who had argued for the Muslim parties, claimed he had been sacked from the case. The Sunni Wakf Board had dramatically agreed for a settlement by agreeing to give up its claim on the disputed land. Later, it refused to file review petition.
However, All India Muslim Personal Law Board decided to seek review while retaining Dhavan as its counsel. But, Dhavan’s expertise could not be utilised as the SC rejected plea for open-court hearing and dismissed review petitions. On November 9, the SC settled the centuries-old Hindu-Muslim conflict that lingered in courts for 70 years by handing over Ayodhya land for construction of a Ram Temple and said the Sunni Wakf Board was to be allocated five acres of land at a prominent place in the temple town for a mosque.
The unanimous verdict, with unmistakable penprints of Justice Chandrachud, weighed in favour of deity Ram Lalla getting the disputed land at Ayodhya because Hindu parties could produce better evidence to substantiate their rights. However, the bench was also unanimous that Muslims too established a competitive right over the disputed land and hence, used its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, to direct the Centre and UP government to allot five acres for a mosque by the Wakf Board.
In the SC, Nirmohi Akhara became the biggest loser as the court dismissed its 1959 suit as time-barred and refused to even recognise its right as a ‘shebait’ (priest), thus robbing it of any major role in the to-be-constructed temple.
Judge became UP dy lokayukta/ 2021
Former special CBI judge Surendra Kumar Yadav, who gave the verdict in the 1992 Babri demolition case acquitting all 32 accused, including LK Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh, was appointed deputy lokayukta of UP. Yadav had retired as district & sessions judge, Lucknow, in September 2019. The SC had given him an extension to deliver the verdict in the case that he had been hearing since 2015.
Ayodhya (Babri Masjid/ Ram Janambhoomi)