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Ayodhya Verdict 2019

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Ayodhya Verdict 2019

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Ayodhya Verdict 2019

shape Introduction

In a Historic Decision, the Supreme Court settled the long pending Ayodhya land dispute case.


Brief Discussion:


  • The verdict was pronounced on 14 appeals filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment.

  • The Court had delivered the verdict in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and ‘Ram Lalla’.


About:


  • In a unanimous decision, a five-judge Constitution bench ruled that the 2.77 acres of the disputed land will remain with the Central government and be handed over to a Trust for the construction of a temple. The trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple.

  • The apex court bench said possession of the disputed 2.77 acres land rights will be handed over to the deity ‘Ram Lalla’, one of the three litigants in the case. It rejected the claim on the land by the Nirmohi Akhara, saying it is not the bait or devotee of the deity of Lord Ram.

  • The court said the faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed. It said a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) provided evidence of the remains of a building “that was not Islamic” beneath the demolished mosque.

  • The bench also ruled that a suitable five-acre plot must be found for a mosque at a prominent place in the town.

  • In granting five acres of land in Ayodhya, but outside the disputed area, to Muslim parties, the Supreme Court used extraordinary powers granted to it by Article 142 of the Constitution.

  • This was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over immovable property, involving private parties.

  • It said that “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”.



shape Ayodhya Verdict

Do you Know about Article 142 of Constitution ?


  • The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.

  • Enforcement of decrees, orders of Supreme Court and orders as to discovery, etc.


Article 142 has 2 provisions –

  • 142(1): The Supreme Court may pass an order fordoing complete justice.

  • 142(2): It confers three different powers on the Supreme Court. They are:

  • Securing the attendance of persons before it.

  • Discovery and production of documents and

  • Investigation and punishment of contempt of itself.


142(1): Doing Complete Justice


  • The objective of Article 142(1) is that the Supreme Court must not be dependent on the executive for the enforcement of its decrees and orders.

  • Such dependence would otherwise violate the principles of independence of the judiciary and separation of powers, both of which are part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

  • In Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India (1998), it was decided that this article

  • Cannot be used to over-ride the existing law, but only to supplement the law and

  • Can be invoked for procedure purposes only.

What is adverse possession this case?


  • The five-judge Constitution Bench that delivered the judgment in the Ayodhya case said that while Muslims never lost possession of the disputed land, they could not assert the right of adverse possession.

  • One of the questions before the Supreme Court was whether the Sunni Wakf Board had acquired the title of the disputed land by adverse possession.

  • The Muslim side had claimed that the by virtue of their long exclusive and continuous possession – beginning from the time the mosque was built, and up to the time the mosque was desecrated – they had perfected their title on Mosque by adverse possession.

  • This argument has now been rejected by the Supreme Court. It said that Muslims cannot claim adverse possession against the said property because it was an open place and everybody was visiting including Muslims.

  • Adverse possession is hostile possession of a property, which has to be continuous, uninterrupted and peaceful.

  • Provisions on adverse possession are made under the Limitation Act, 1963. In case an owner does not stake his claim over his property for 12 years, a squatter can acquire legal rights over the property. The prescribed period in case of for government-owned properties is 30 years.

Detailed Discussion:


  • The Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment in the Ayodhya land dispute case

  • The five-judge Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi read out a unanimous judgment and ruled in favour of the Ram Janmabhoomi and said there will be Ram Mandir at the disputed site and Muslims will be given an alternate 5 acre land for their mosque.

What is the crux of the dispute?


  • At the crux of the matter is the belief among sections of Hindus that the Babri Masjid, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built in Ayodhya after destroying a Ram Temple that marked the birthplace of the deity.

  • The Hindu parties wanted the land to themselves, contending that Lord Ram was born at a spot on which later the central dome of the mosque was built.

  • The Muslim parties, however, contended that the mosque was constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqi, a commander of Babur’s army, without demolishing any place of worship and since the land rights had not been transferred to any other party, the space was rightfully theirs.

Chronology of the Ayodhya dispute
1528 First Mughal Emperor Babar is believed to have constructed Babri Masjid

  • The three-domed mosque built by Mir Baqi commander of Mughal emperor Babur in 1528 is in the Jaunpuri style
1885 Mahant Raghbir Das moves Faizabad court seeking permission to construct a temple in the vicinity of the Babri Masjid. The plea is declined.
1949 Idols of Lord Ram is mysteriously found inside the mosque


  • The Muslim side claimed it was the handiwork of the Hindus, while the Hindus wanted to worship the idol.

  • Violence broke out, and the administration locked the premises with the idol inside.
1950 Gopal Visharad and Ramachandra Das moved to Faizabad court for permission to worship the idols


  • Though one of the first civil suits in this matter was filed in the 1950s, the legal battle can be traced back to the British era.

  • In a bid to quell communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims, the colonial administration even built a fence to allow both communities to worship in the area.
1959 Nirmohi Akhara files plea seeking possession of the disputed land.
1961 Central Sunni Waqf Board, U.P., moves court for declaration of title of the disputed land and removal of the idols inside the mosque.
1986 Faizabad court allows Hindus to worship the idols.
1989
  • No parties were allowed inside the premises until February 1, 1986, when the Faizabad district administration allowed Hindus to offer darshan alone.

  • They were not allowed to perform any other ritual.


Allahabad High Court takes over the title dispute. Orders status quo.

1989 The Rajiv Gandhi government allows Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to perform puja near the disputed site.
1992 Kar sevaks demolish Babri Masjid. Justice Liberhan Commission appointed to probe.
1993 P.V. Narasimha Rao government acquires 67 acres of land adjoining the disputed site. The Supreme Court upholds the acquisition in its Dr. Ismail Faruqui judgment.
2002 Allahabad High Court commences hearing the title suits.


  • The Allahabad High Court directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct excavations at the disputed site.

  • In August 2003, the ASI submitted the report stating that remains of a large structure existed before the Babri Masjid.
2010 High Court delivers a majority judgment for three-way partition of the disputed property among Hindus, Muslims and Nirmohi Akhara.
2011 SC stays the high court judgment on cross-appeals filed by the parties.
2019
  • A Constitution Bench of five judges led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi resumes hearing the title appeals but suggests mediation first.

  • Mediation committee led by former Supreme Court judge, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla fails to draw a consensus and court hearing commences.

Allahabad High Court Judgment

The Allahabad high court’s verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case was passed by a three-judge bench


  • The judgment which was pronounced with majority decision of 2:1 held that the 2.77 acres land located in Ayodhya will be divided into a three-way division — one-third for the Sunni Waqf Board, one-third for the Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the party for ‘Ram Lalla’ or infant Ram represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha

  • According to the judgment the central dome of the three-domed structure, where the makeshift idol was kept was the “place of birth of Lord Ram as per faith and belief of the Hindus” and so was allotted to the Hindus.

  • The Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination, who was seeking the construction of Ram temple and wanted the complete management rights of the premises, was allotted the Ram Chabutra, Bhandar and Sita Rasoi structures located in the outer courtyard.

  • The Muslim party had sought directions for the restoration of the Babri Masjid as it was before it was demolished in 1992. They were allotted the remaining area amounting to the share of 1/3 both from the inner and outer courtyard.

  • The order had also clarified that all the three parties have been allotted one third share each, however if while allotting exact portions some minor adjustment in the share is to be made then the same will be made and the adversely affected party may be compensated by allotting some portion of the adjoining land which has been acquired by the Central Government.

  • As one can see, in the 2.77 acre of disputed land, both Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi are outside of the inner courtyard of Babri Masjid structure.

    • Sita ki Rasoi is temple turned royal kitchen of Goddess Sita.


  • The Ram Lalla idol placed at the site where dome of Babri Masjid once stood.

    • The Muslims worshipped inside the mosque, while the Hindus prayed at Ram Chhabutra, a platform built within the mosque compound.

Takeaways from the landmark judgment by Supreme Court in the Ayodhya case:


1. The Supreme Court said the Allahabad High Court’s remedy of a three-way bifurcation of the disputed premises among the Ayodhya deity, Sri Bhagwan Ram Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara, and the Sunni Central Waqf Board “defied logic”. It did not “secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity”.


2. The court said that the faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the disputed site where the Babri Masjid once stood cannot be disputed.


  • The court held there was both oral and documentary evidence to support the Hindus’ faith that the Janma Asthan was located where the Babri Masjid was constructed.

  • The court said there was proof of extensive worship offered by the Hindus, especially in the outer courtyard where the Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi are located, even before the annexation of the Oudh by the British in 1857.

  • What tipped the scales in favor of the Hindu parties seems to be the prevalence of worship by Hindu pilgrims from a much earlier era, whereas, the offering of namaaz has been established only from around
  • 1856-57.


3. The Supreme Court also said that the 1992 demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid Mosque was a violation of the law.


  • But while reading out its judgment, the Supreme Court said that the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board had failed to establish its case in Ayodhya dispute case and Hindus have established their case that they were in possession of outer courtyard of the disputed site.

  • The five-judge Constitution Bench that delivered the judgment in the Ayodhya case said that while Muslims never lost possession of the disputed land, they could not assert the right of adverse possession.

  • The Muslim side had claimed that the mosque was built 400 years ago by Babar – and that even if it is assumed that it was built on the land where a temple earlier existed, Muslims, by virtue of their long exclusive and continuous possession – beginning from the time the mosque was built, and up to the time the mosque was desecrated –they had perfected their title by adverse possession.

  • This argument has now been rejected by the Supreme Court

  • In fact, a similar view was taken by the two judges of the Allahabad High Court.

  • Justice D V Sharma had said that Muslims cannot claim adverse possession against the said property because it was an open place and everybody was visiting including Muslims.


4. Hence the Supreme Court has granted the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya to deity Ram Lalla. As compensation of sorts for the destruction of the mosque in 1992, the Muslim parties are set to get a five-acre plot elsewhere.


  • The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.

    • The provision that vests sweeping powers in the Supreme Court for the end of ensuring “complete justice” has been used generally in cases that involve human rights and environmental protection.

    • This was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over immovable property, involving private parties.

    • It said that while the court’s power under Article 142 “is not limitless”, it “embodies both the notion of justice, equity and good conscience as well as a supplementary power to the court to effect complete justice”.


  • In fact, it wasn’t just for the Muslim parties that the SC invoked Article 142. The same article was invoked in the case of the Nirmohi Akhara, who was a party to the case.


5. The court dismissed the Akhara’s petition as time-barred and rejected its suit claiming she bait (managerial rights) over the property.


  • However, the court invoked its extraordinary powers to ask the government to give Nirmohi Akhara, considering the sect’s historical presence at the disputed site, to provide it with an “appropriate role in the management” of the property.

Directions to the centre and the state Govt


  • Supreme Court has directed the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government to allot an alternative 5 acre land to the Muslims at a prominent place to build a mosque.

  • Supreme Court has directed the Union government to set up a trust in 3 months for the construction of the Ram Mandir at the disputed site where Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992.

  • The court has asked Centre to consider granting some kind of representation to Nirmohi Akhara in setting up of trust.

    • Nirmohi Akhara was the third party in the Ayodhya dispute.

    • The Supreme Court dismissed the plea of Nirmohi Akhara, which was seeking control of the entire disputed land, saying they are the custodian of the land.

What else did the Judgment say?


  • The judges declared that the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was “an egregious violation of the rule of law” and “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, the Bench said.

  • The Court referred to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991, which prohibits the conversion of the status any place of worship, to say that all religions are equal.

  • After giving the disputed land to Hindus and a separate five acres for construction of a mosque in Ayodhya, the SC shut the door for fresh litigation to alter status quo of sites such as those in Kashi and Mathura, which have also seen discord over worship.

    • “The Constitution does not make a distinction between the faith and belief of one religion and another. All forms of belief, worship, and prayer are equal,”

    • The Bench said the Act “speaks to the future by mandating that the character of a place of public worship shall not be altered”.

    • “Places of Worship Act is an affirmation of the solemn duty which was cast upon the State to preserve and protect the equality of all faiths as an essential constitutional value, a norm which has the status of being a basic feature of the Constitution,” the Supreme Court addressed the government.

Important observations in the judgment:


SC not to entertain claims against the actions of Mughals.


  • The Supreme Court has stated that it cannot entertain claims about the actions of Mughal emperors against Hindu places of worship.

  • The court has held that for any person who seeks solace or recourse against the actions of any number of ancient rulers, the law is not the answer.

  • With this, the court shuts its door on future claims of alleged atrocities committed by ancient rulers against Hindu places of worship of yore.

  • With respect to the disputed property at Ayodhya, it was observed that the British Sovereign recognized and permitted the existence of both Hindu and Muslim communities at the disputed property upon the annexation of Oudh in 1856. Hence, the claims could be examined in this case.

  • The court has held that the adoption of the Constitution marks a watershed moment for India and its citizens as the people of India, departed from the determination of rights and liabilities on the basis of our ideology, our religion, the colour of our skin, or the century when our ancestors arrived in these lands, and submitted to the rule of law. Ruins don’t always indicate demolition, observes SC

  • The Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, was dealing with the question of whether a Hindu religious structure was demolished to build the Babri Masjid in the 16th century.

  • The ruins of an ancient religious structure under an existing building do not always indicate that it was demolished by unfriendly powers for the construction of a new structure, the Supreme Court held in its 1,045-page judgment in the Ayodhya case.

  • The observation is significant and will form the basis of an argument against future claims that Hindu places of worship were destroyed centuries ago by rulers to build structures of other religions.

  • The Supreme Court agreed with the Allahabad High Court’s reasoning that “when a structure has been constructed several hundred years ago, it is difficult to conclude with any degree of certainty whether the underlying structure on whose foundations it rests had collapsed due to natural causes or whether the structure was demolished to give way for the structure of a mosque”.

  • The judgment noted that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report merely says the mosque was not built on vacant land and there was an underlying non-Islamic structure of large dimensions. It does not touch upon how that structure went to ruins.

Concerns and Hope


  • Ayodhya in the past was the center stage for communal politics and a tool for polarization before elections. The high-pitched events not only disrupt daily life and business but also endangered communal harmony in the region.

  • Lack of jobs and investment, poor infrastructure and an underdeveloped tourism economy have kept Ayodhya far behind other important Hindu religious centers like Mathura and Varanasi.

  • In the future with the acrimony between communities settled by the intervention of the Supreme court and the Democratic institutions supporting this landmark judgment, a new era of economic progress in the region, exploration of tourism and giving wings to business development should be the priority of the Govt and all the stakeholders in the region.


shape Conclusion

  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said “Law must stand apart over political considerations, religion and beliefs”

  • The judgment will be remembered for the victory of faith over the rule of law as the Supreme Court considered religious beliefs even in deciding a property dispute, and despite conceding that faith cannot confer title, it still went ahead to give property to worshippers on the basis of faith


Doctrine of Adverse Possession


  • Under the “doctrine of adverse possession”, under which a person who is not the original owner becomes the owner because of the fact that he has been in possession of the property for a minimum of 12-years, within which the real owner did not seek legal recourse to oust him.

  • Adverse possession is possession of a property – which has to be continuous, uninterrupted and peaceful.


SC Says Nirmohi Akhara Not a Shebait


  • The Nirmohi Akhara — a group of Hindu ascetics who worship Ram wanted a temple to be built at its location.

  • The group have been devotees of Lord Ram for centuries and wanted she bait rights over the temple (the one in which the property of temple is vested) and argued that they had rights in the capacity of a manager of the deity’s property.

  • But the Supreme Court said in its verdict that the Nirmohi Akhara suit was barred by limitations and the Akhara is not she bait or devotee of the deity Ram Lalla.


Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991


  • The law was intended to deter politico-religious movements to change the nature of existing religious places elsewhere.

  • 2 (c). “Place of worship” means a temple, mosque, gurudwara, church, monastery or any other place of public religious worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof, by whatever name called.

  • 3. Bar of conversion of places of worship.— No, the person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereof into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof

  • Offences under the Act are punishable with a jail term which may extend up to three years as well as a fine. Even making an attempt to change any place of worship, abetting it, or being a party to a conspiracy to do so would invite a jail term.

A new chapter for ‘New India’: Modi


‘Unity in diversity’


  • “The whole world already knew that India was the largest democracy, but today it has been proven that it is also vibrant and strong,” he said.

  • “The way all sections of people have accepted the verdict with open hearts, it shows the strength of our unity and national character. Even after thousands of years, unity in diversity is very much in evidence and today’s verdict, and the whole event will be referred to in this context to come.”


‘Fall of Berlin Wall’


  • The date on which the verdict had been delivered, November 9, was particularly significant as it was on that day that the Berlin Wall, dividing East and West Germany, had been brought down “and people on opposite sides reconciled”, Mr. Modi said.

  • “We also saw the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Ayodhya verdict on this day, therefore, is telling us that the message from the date is to be united in harmony and amity,” he added.

Who is the author of the judgment?

The judgment is unanimous, with the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer all concurring. But, just who among the five judges have actually authored the judgment?

  • In a departure from general practice, Ayodhya Verdict does not specify who the author is.
  • The established practice is to specify the name of the judge who has authored the judgment on behalf of a bench.
  • There is nothing in law saying that judgment must bear the name of the author. The Supreme Court Rules, 2013 are silent on this aspect.
  • The name of the author has probably been withheld in order to prevent judges from being singled out. The Ayodhya Case, after all, is perhaps the most sensitive case that has been adjudicated by the Supreme Court.

judges have actually authored the judgment?


  • In a departure from general practice, Ayodhya Verdict does not specify who the author is.

  • The established practice is to specify the name of the judge who has authored the judgment on behalf of a bench.

  • There is nothing in law saying that judgment must bear the name of the author. The Supreme Court Rules, 2013 are silent on this aspect.

  • The name of the author has probably been withheld in order to prevent judges from being singled out. The Ayodhya Case, after all, is perhaps the most sensitive case that has been adjudicated by the Supreme Court

What is a Swayambhu Deity?


  • A Swayambhu deity is the revelation of God in a material form which is subsequently worshipped by devotees.

  • The recognition of a Swayambhu deity is based on the notion that God is omnipotent and may manifest in some physical form. This manifestation is worshipped as the embodiment of divinity. In all these cases, the very attribution of divinity is premised on the manifestation of the deity in a material form.

  • Undoubtedly, a deity may exist without a physical manifestation, an example of this being the worship offered to the Sun and the Wind.

  • But a Swayambhu is premised on the physical manifestation of the Divine to which faith and belief attaches.


Author: Dheeraj Sharma
Published: November 18, 2019


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