Ayodhya verdict: A case closed, wound open – Published in The Mumbai Mirror

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title case was a long pending legal dispute between two  communities who are the residents of Ayodhya. In 1949 about 100 Hindus placed idols inside the Mosque at a time when Namaz used to be offered by Muslims. Pursuant to this, a dispute arose over time and it became a matter of claim for the three contesting parties: Idol of Lord Ram, Nirmohi Akhara, and Muslim Parties.

From 1985 onwards this issue was given a complete colour by certain section of the non- litigant Hindu parties. Ultimately, a fresh suit was filed in 1989, which was a political move, taken by the leaders of that time. In this suit, predominantly, faith was the only basis to oust The Muslims, as well the Nirmohi Akhara from the Mosque. In 2010 the Allahabad High court divided this area of mosque into three parts by giving equal portions to all the aforesaid three parties. All the parties challenged this judgement in the Supreme Court.

The SC Judgement

The case was argued at great length by all the parties in the Supreme Court. The Muslims made their case on the basis of their title on the land because the Mosque existed at that place from 1528 till 1992, and if a Mosque existed, it is incumbent that Namaz was being offered from 1528 till 1856.There is, however, no record on paper to prove the same. From 1885 onwards even the Hindu parties of Ayodhya, the Nirmohi Akhara, accepted the fact that in the litigations pending at that time that the building was a Mosque and Namaz was being offered. This fact was  also been accepted in the present judgement.

The court has accepted that the finding of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) cannot be to the effect of determining the title of the land. The court also accepts that faith and belief cannot be the basis of deciding the title of the land; earlier the SC has decided in Wakf Property Case that historical facts cannot be the basis to determine title of land.

Even the traveller’s accounts from 17th century and thereafter have not been taken as the basis to declare the title. The court agrees that Namaz continued till December 1949 and after 1949 Muslims were ousted from the building. In view of the court orders, the building was virtually converted into a temple and finally, in 1992, it was demolished, which was described by five  judges of the Supreme Court, in 1994, as a national shame. Now it has been stated that this act was a violation of rule of law. About the rights of the Hindu side, it is clear that from 1856 onwards this place was associated with the place of birth of lord Ram. In 1885 it was the Chabootra on the outer courtyard, which was considered to be the place of birth of Lord Ram, and in 1949 the place under the central dome of the building was claimed to be the place of birth.

In the present judgement, the claim of Nirmohi Akhara has been dismissed and rights of Muslims and Hindus have been determined for their religious places. The claim of Hindu parties that the travellers accounts suggest that Hindus had much earlier associated this place with belief, and that could become the basis for determination of place of birth on the basis of faith, is somehow conflicting with the earlier part of judgement on this issue. The court has gone on to declare that position of Muslims on the land of inner courtyard is not amenable to adverse possession in favour of Mosque because raising a partition to divide the property into inner courtyard and outer courtyard goes to reflect that there was continuous dispute. And on this basis the entire land has been give to Hindus All the serious issues raised by the Muslims, on the other hand, to establish that this was a mosque has been accepted by the court. In the final conclusion, however, the court gives the entire land to Hindus. In essence, this final conclusion is not just, and is not in consonance with the settled laws of title dispute. It will certainly embolden the unprincipled political class to attack the Muslim community and their other religious structures, which they have spoken in public at large.

The Supreme Court gesture  to balance equities by giving five acres of land to Muslims is completely misplaced and further reflects how an unjust resolution can be imposed on a community, which had earlier rejected much better options, because it was not a matter of making a grand Mosque, but a matter of legal right on that place. This was tested up until the highest court and, in that test, the rule of law has failed and majoritarian view has prevailed. I feel, while respecting the finality on this issue, the Muslims should reject the offer of five acres of land and that land too can be enjoyed by Hindu brothers for the extension of their temple.

This article was published in The Mumbai Mirror on 10th November, 2019

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