The Ayodhya cases
For a gist of the judgements delivered by the Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010, scroll to the bottom of this post.
The central and state governments are jittery about the law and order situation following a judgement to be pronounced on September 24 in the case of the disputed title to the Babri Masjid/Ram Temple site in Ayodhya. CNN-IBN has a quick history of the legal dispute which may soon be settled:
It is the longest running legal dispute in India. Call it by any name – Babri dispute or Ram Mandir dispute, but it all simply boils down to just who owns the 60 sq feet by 40 sq feet land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid used to stand till December 6, 1992.
The dispute actually dates back to 1885 when the first petition was filed by the head of the Nirmohi Akhara asking for permission to offer prayers to Ram Lalla inside what was known as the Babri Masjid. But the permission was never given.
In the following year in 1886, district Judge of Faizabad court FEA Chamier gave his verdict “It is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance.”
Since then and from 1950 onwards five title suits were filed in the Allahabad High Court. Out of these four are in favour of Hindus and one from the Sunni Waqf Board, All the suits stake claim to the title of the plot of land of the Babri masjid.
[The] title suits are now going to be decided by the three-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. The bench compris[es] of Justice S. U. Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice D. V. Sharma.
Sep 18, 2010
The Hindu reported:
The Special Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Friday rejected a plea for deferment of the verdict in the Babri Masjid title suit case and imposed a heavy fine on applicant Ramesh Chandra Tripathi.
The judgment on the 60-year-old title suit will be pronounced at 3.30 p.m. on September 24. The court reserved its judgment on July 26.
The Special Bench, at its Bench of Judicature here, comprising Justices S.U. Khan, D.V. Sharma and Sudhir Agarwal, said Mr. Tripathi’s application lacked merit.
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.
Mr. Tripathi’s application was filed on September 13 with the Officer on Special Duty (OSD). It expressed the apprehension that law and order problem might arise soon after the verdict.
The next day, the Special Bench called counsel to be present in the court on September 17 to go into the possibility of an amicable settlement.
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.
There are now self-imposed guidelines for reportage of the judgement. New Kerala reports:
After facing charges of provocative and irresponsible coverage of several major happenings, the electronic
media’s wings are being clipped before the Ayodhya title suit verdict as the News Broadcasters Association on Saturday set guidelines for TV channels for coverage of the verdict.
The guidelines ask the channels not to speculate on what the verdict would be before the Court pronounces it and also refrain from showing footage of 1992 Babri Masjid demolition.
“The basic guideline to be adhered to is that all such news should conform strictly to sub-serving the public interest of maintaining communal harmony and preservation of the secular ethos of our plural society and it should influence the formation of the correct public opinion,” the guidelines said.
It also cautioned the channels from speculating on the judgement and its possible consequences, as well as from showing protests or celebrations by any community or group after the verdict is out on September 24.
Sep 21, 2010
Now it turns out that one of the three judges has reservations about the judgement passed four days ago. BS reports:
One of the three judges on the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court today disagreed with the majority order rejecting the plea for deferring the verdict in the Babri Masjid title suit.
Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, while not concurring with the view of the other two judges – Justice S U Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal – wrote a dissenting note, saying an out-of-court settlement could have been explored through mediation or conciliation.
The judge also did not agree with the ruling of the two other judges imposing a fine of Rs 50,000 on the petitioners who filed the deferment application.
Justice Sharma, who did not sign the September 17 order issued by the special bench, said the parties involved in the case should have been given the freedom to try and work out an amicable settlement until the day of the verdict.
Justice Sharma said he was not consulted by his colleagues before the decision to reject the deferment plea was taken. “I am sorry to say that I was not consulted by my brother judges before they passed their order. Otherwise, I would have expressed my views then itself,” Sharma said in his order.
Sep 22, 2010
The supreme court has refused to hear Tripathi’s plea that the Allahabad court defer its judgement. According to ET:
The Supreme Court today declined to hear urgently a plea to postpone the Ayodhya title suit verdict and barring any last-minute intervention it will be delivered by the Allahabad High Court as scheduled on Friday.
A bench of the court while refusing to hear the petition filed by retired bureacrat Ramesh Chand Tripathi earlier in the day on the ground it did not have the “determination” to said it will be listed before another Bench.
The bench comprising Justices Altmas Kabir and A K Patnaik however refused to list the petition for tomorrow saying it did not have the “jurisdiction” to fix the date for hearing after the counsel for the petitioner pressed for the same.
Mr. Tripathy’s misgivings are clearly shared by the union government, as one can conclude from the following report in Hindu:
The Centre on Wednesday banned all bulk SMS and MMS across India for next 72 hour with immediate effect in view of the impending verdict on Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit by the Special Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court , which is scheduled for Friday.
Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, has directed all mobile telecom services providers to ban all bulk SMS and MMS service across India till Saturday, which could be extended further if the need arises. For individuals, bulk SMS would be above 10 per day, while for companies it could be 100 or more.
Union Home Ministry asked the Department of Telecom to issue such directions following apprehensions from the intelligence agencies that anti-social elements and rumour mongers could use SMS and MMS services to create tensions and disrupt peace in the country, particularly in communally-sensitive cities and towns.
Sep 23, 2010
HT reports an unexpected postponement:
The Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya title suit will not be delivered on Friday with the Supreme Court deferring it by a week in a sudden turn of events on Thursday deciding to hear the plea for postponement next Tuesday. After sharp differences over the issue of entertaining the petition challenging the HC order refusing to postpone the judgement, a Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhale stayed for a week the verdict due to have been pronounced tomorrow by the High Court’s Lucknow Bench.
Following the court’s tradition in case of differences, the Bench decided to issue notices to all the contesting parties and sought their response to the plea by retired bureaucrat Ramesh Chand Tripathi.
“If there is one per cent chance, you have to give it (for settlement),” Justice Gokhale said.
Justice Raveendran in his order said “One of the members of the Bench is of the view that the SLP should be dismissed. Another member is of the view that the order should be stayed and notice issued.
“Tradition of this court is when one member says that notice be issued another says that it should not be issued, the notice should be issued.
“And we issue notice and stay the order. There shall be an interim stay for a week. Notice to all parties and the Attorney General who shall be present in the court”.
The posting of the next hearing on September 28 assumes importance in view of the fact that one of the three judges of the Ayodhya bench in Lucknow–Justice D V Sharma–is due to demit office on October 1st.
The Hindu explains the significance of September 28:
If the verdict is not pronounced by September 29, it would again take years as one of the judges in the three judge bench is retiring this month and a fresh bench would have to be constituted and the proceedings would be started afresh, Singh said.
Sep 25, 2010
A new development is reported by TOI:
CJI S H Kapadia heads the Bench in Court Number 1 of Supreme Court, also known as Chief Justice’s Court, and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar sit with him almost regularly.
But, with the apex court due to hear the Ayodhya matter which can have repercussions for Hindu-Muslim equations, the CJI appears to have put into practice the oft-recited adage — “justice should not only be done, but also appear to be done” — and drafted in Justice Aftab Alam in place of Justice Kumar for the crucial hearing on Tuesday.
The petition of Ramesh Chandra Tripathi seeking deferment of the Ayodhya verdict had to be referred to the CJI to be put before a new three-judge Bench after a two-judge Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhale differed on entertaining the appeal even as they, following a tradition, stopped the Allahabad High Court from delivering the verdict on Thursday.
Significantly, amid tenacious opposition by many — from the BJP/VHP combine to the All India Shia Personal Law Board — the number of parties to the title suits seeking a postponement of the verdict seems to be increasing in what can have a bearing on the hearing in the apex court on Tuesday.
Meanwhile the (somehat rusty) iron man resurfaced, as reported by Sify:
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani visited the Somnath temple in Gujarat along with former BJP leader Uma Bharti on Saturday.
The two leaders landed at Keshod airport in Junagadh district on Friday evening from where they left for Somnath to offer prayers at the temple.
Advani had started his rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya in 1990. The yatra commenced on September 25, 1990, and since then, Advani has been visiting the temple on its anniversary every year.
Sep 28, 2010
The Supreme Court refused to stay the verdict. TheHindu reports:
The Congress, BJP, Left parties and RSS on Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court decision dismissing a plea seeking to defer the verdict in the Ayodhya title suits, paving the way for the Allahabad High Court to deliver its judgement in the 60-year-old Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit.
A three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia on Tuesday dismissed the plea seeking deferment of the verdict on Ramjanamabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suits by the Allahabad High Court. It gave its green signal to the High Court to go ahead with the judgement.
The Home Ministry has identified 32 sensitive locations across the country — four of them in Uttar Pradesh — where there is a potential for “evoking of sharp reactions” following the verdict and asked states to be fully alert.
The Centre is keeping ready paramilitary forces at 16 strategic locations — closer to airports — for immediate deployment in the places of trouble anywhere in the country.
AN 32 and IL 76 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force are also being kept ready in eight of the 16 locations, which include Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Bagdogra and Delhi.
The Home Ministry has already prepared a contingency plan to deal with any situation arising out of the Allahabad High Court judgement, which will come on Thursday.
In an advisory, the Home Ministry has asked all states –especially UP, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala — and Union Territories to give “top most priority” in maintaining law and order.
In its communication, the Ministry also informed states and UTs of the activities of various religious groups which have already announced countrywide mass mobilisation and awareness campaign in view of the forthcoming court verdict.
Sep 30, 2010
NDTV reports a verdict which cannot be verified to be official:
Senior advocate and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad emerged from court today to say that the three-judge bench had ruled in a majority judgement 2:1, that one-third part of the disputed land should be given to the Sunni Waqf Board, one-third to the Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the party for ‘Ram Lalla’. Prasad represents one of the litigants.
Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed the court had ruled that the place where the idol of Ram was kept was the birthplace of the deity and the idols should not removed.
Prasad claimed that the court had asked for a status quo for three months and in that time the litigants had to decide how to split the party.
Litigants emerged from the courtroom with copies of the judgment and there has been chaos outside the Lucknow court ever since.
A divided judgement was delivered by the Allahabad High Court. Each of the three judges handed down separate judgements. An index to the documents is made available by the Court (it may be hard to reach this).
The gist of the judgement of the Honourable Justice Sudhir Agarwal reads in part:
(i) It is declared that the area covered by the central dome of the three domed structure, i.e., the disputed structure being the deity of Bhagwan Ram Janamsthan and place of birth of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of the Hindus, belong to plaintiffs (Suit-5) and shall not be obstructed or interfered in any manner by the defendants. …
(ii) The area within the inner courtyard … belong to members of both the communities, i.e., Hindus (here plaintiffs, Suit-5) and Muslims since it was being used by both since decades and centuries. It is, however, made clear that for the purpose of share of plaintiffs, Suit-5 under this direction the area which is covered by (i) above shall also be included.
(iii) The area covered by the structures, namely, Ram Chabutra, Sita Rasoi and Bhandar in the outer courtyard is declared in the share of Nirmohi Akhara and they shall be entitled to possession thereof in the
absence of any person with better title.
(iv) The open area within the outer courtyard … shall be shared by Nirmohi Akhara (defendant no. 3) and plaintiffs (Suit-5) since it has been generally used by the Hindu people for worship at both places.
(iv-a) It is however made clear that the share of muslim parties shall not be less than one third (1/3) of the total area of the premises and if necessary it may be given some area of outer courtyard. It is also made clear that while making partition by metes and bounds, if some minor adjustments are to be made with respect to the share of different parties, the affected party may be compensated by allotting the requisite land from the area which is under acquisition of the Government of India.
(v) The land which is available with the Government of India acquired under Ayodhya Act 1993 for providing it to the parties who are successful in the suit for better enjoyment of the property shall be made available to the above concerned parties in such manner so that all the three parties may utilise the area to which they
are entitled to, by having separate entry for egress and ingress of the people without disturbing each others rights. For this purpose the concerned parties may approach the Government of India who shall act in accordance with the above directions and also as contained in the judgement of Apex Court in Dr. Ismail Farooqi (Supra).
The gist of the ruling by the Honourable Justice Sibghat Ullah Khan agrees with the above allocation. Additionally, he states:
1. The disputed structure was constructed as mosque by or under orders of Babar.
2. It is not proved by direct evidence that premises in dispute including constructed portion belonged to Babar or the person who constructed the mosque or under whose orders it was constructed.
3. No temple was demolished for constructing the mosque.
4. Mosque was constructed over the ruins of temples which were lying in utter ruins since a very long time before the construction of mosque and some material thereof was used in construction of the mosque.
5. That for a very long time till the construction of the mosque it was treated/believed by Hindus that some where in a very large area of which premises in dispute is a very small part birth place of Lord Ram was situated, however, the belief did not relate to any specified small area within that bigger area specifically the premises in dispute.
6. That after some time of construction of the mosque Hindus started identifying the premises in dispute as exact birth place of Lord Ram or a place wherein exact birth place was situated.
7. That much before 1855 Ram Chabutra and Seeta Rasoi had come into existence and Hindus were worshipping in the same. It was very very unique and absolutely unprecedented situation that in side the boundary wall and compound of the mosque Hindu religious places were there which were actually being worshipped along with offerings of Namaz by Muslims in the mosque.
8. That in view of the above gist of the finding at serial no.7 both the parties Muslims as well as Hindus are held to be in joint possession of the entire premises in dispute.
An extract from the judgement of the Honourable Justice Dharam Veer Sharma reads:
1. Whether the disputed site is the birth place of Bhagwan Ram?
The disputed site is the birth place of Lord Ram. Place of birth is a juristic person and is a deity.
2. Whether the disputed building was a mosque? When was it built? By whom?
The disputed building was constructed by Babar, the year is not certain but it was built against the tenets of Islam. Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque.
3. Whether the mosque was built after demolishing a Hindu temple?
The disputed structure was constructed on the site of old structure after demolition of the same. The Archaeological Survey of India has proved that the structure was a massive Hindu religious structure.
6. What will be the status of the disputed site e.g. inner and outer courtyard?
It is established that the property in suit is the site of Janm Bhumi of Ram Chandra Ji and Hindus in general had the right to worship Charan, Sita Rasoi, other idols and other object of worship existed upon the property in suit. It is also established that Hindus have been worshipping the place in dispute as Janm Sthan i.e. a birth place as deity and visiting it as a sacred place of pilgrimage as of right since time immemorial. After the construction of the disputed structure it is proved the deities were installed inside the disputed structure on
22/23.12.1949. It is also proved that the outer courtyard was in exclusive possession of Hindus and they were worshipping throughout and in the inner courtyard (in the disputed structure) they were also worshipping. It is also established that the disputed structure cannot be treated as a mosque as it came into existence against the tenets of Islam.