• The Law Gazette

The Ayodhya Land Dispute Case

The Ayodhya land dispute is one of the longest-running battles in the Indian legal history that concluded on November 9, 2019. The first case titled the Ayodhya dispute was filed 134 years ago. The Ayodhya land dispute is a historical, socio-religious and political debate in India that has been on for decades. The dispute revolved around on a piece of land in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh which is regarded as the birthplace of Hindu deity Ram. This dispute made its way up through all the legal hierarchy, beginning from Faizabad Civil Court to Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court to the Supreme Court of India, even as India went from being a colony rules by the British to the Independent Republic, with its own faulty lines.


The first recorded legal history in the Ayodhya dispute dates back to the time before independence in the year 1858. An FIR was filed on 30th November 1858 by a Mohammad against a group of Nihang Sikhs who placed their Nishan and wrote “RAM” inside the Babri Mosque. Havan and Puja were also performed by them in there. This became the first documentary evidence that the Hindus were present in the outsides as well as the inside courtyards.

The legal fight began in 1885, when Mahant Raghubar Das filed a lawsuit[1] in the court of Faizabad, against the secretary of the State of India. In his suit, he demanded permission to construct a temple on the Ram Chabutra (platform), adjoining the Babri Mosque structure. The suit was dismissed. Later, an appeal[2] was filed in 1886 against the judgement in the district court of Faizabad, where the judge decided to first visit the spot before passing any order. The appeal was dismissed later. A second appeal[3] was filed which again was dismissed. For the next 63 years, the case stood as it is. No legal progress was witnessed in the case. In the year 1934, a riot took place in Ayodhya and the structure of the disputed site was demolished by Hindus. The site was rebuilt by the Britishers.

In December 1949, FIR was filed against a group on Hindus entering the site when it was deserted and placing the idols inside the central dome of the mosque. The City Magistrate passed an order to lock the gates of the mosque and under section 145 of CrPc[4] the entire property was attached and the Nagar Mahapalika was appointed as the receiver.

After Independence, a suit was filed on 16 January 1950 against five Muslim’s, state government and the district magistrate of Faizabad praying for the right to conduct Pooja in the inner courtyard. The civil judge passed an order of injunction, allowing the right to pray. Nine years later, on 17 December 1959, a suit was filed by Nirmohi AKhada to take over the management from the receiver.

Two years passed by and then on 18th December 1961, the Sunni Central Waqf Board along with other defendant filed another suit in the civil court of Faizabad, praying for the removing of the Hindu Idols and handing over the possession of the Mosque. This was the fourth suit filed in this context. The locks were opened on 1st February 1986. On 1st July 1989, another suit was filed by Ram Lalla Virajman in the civil court of Faizabad, praying that the site to be handed over to Ram Lala for the construction of the temple. Shia Waqf Board filed a suit and became a defendant in the case. The Allahabad High Court passed an order of passing all the suits to a three-judge bench of the High court on July 12, 1989.

On October 7-10, 1991, the BJP government acquired the site in dispute, which constituted a total of 2.77 acres of land to develop the area for tourism purposes[5]. The acquisition was challenged by the Muslim community and was quashed by the High Court. This was the turning point in the Ayodhya Dispute. The political agendas fueled the dispute. On 6th December 1992, the Mosque was demolished despite the interim orders passed by the Supreme Court and the High court. This action triggered communal riots all over the country.

In 2003, Allahabad High court order excavation at the disputed site. The Archaeological Survey of India in its reports stated that there was a massive structure beneath the disputed land that was non-Islamic.[6]

As time passed by, both the groups tried their best to put forward their side in various courts of the country. On 30th September 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that disputed land in Ayodhya that is 2.77 acres land should be divided into three parts. The three parties to be the owner of the land were Hindus, Muslims and Nirmohi Akhara. An appeal was filed against this in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court stayed the verdict.

In the year 2016, a fresh hearing was started. In 2017, the apex court suggested that the matter being sensitive in nature should be settled outside the court, wherein the stakeholders discuss the issue and find an amicable solution. This method did not succeed. Later in 2018, a bench of five-judges was set up to hear the land dispute case. The Supreme Court conducted hearing of the cases regularly for 40 days. In the last 11 days of the hearing an extra hour was given to both the sides to complete their agreements. The arguments from both ends were completed on 16 October.

On 9the November 2019, a Supreme Court bench unanimously ruled that the disputed land be given to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas for the construction of a temple. The Muslims were compensated with five acres of land at a prominent site in Ayodhya to build a Mosque.


“Tolerance and mutual co-existence nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people.”

Supreme Court, Ayodhya Verdict

The apex court is intended to safeguard the constitution of India. The religions should have no credence with the court. The sole motive of the apex court should be to protect the rights and privileges of India. The Supreme Court in the exercise of their powers under Article 142 of the constitution must ensure that the wrong committed must be remedied. The bench ensured the Waqf board that till the allotment of 5 acres land is not worked out, the disputed land would continue to remain with the centre. This portrays a step towards the restoration of faith in the Indian Judicial system.

Another two significant aspects of this judgement are that the Supreme Court held the keeping of idols in the mosque and the demolition of the Babri Mosque by the agitators as illegal and criminal activity. Both these acts performed were against the law of land. Supreme Court faced backlash on the grounds that if the acts were illegal the why was the possession handed over for the construction of the temple. These facts do not hold much ground since the criminality of the case and the civil aspect were two separate issues.

The criminal nature of the activities performed had no relevance with the decision of ownership of the disputed land. The Supreme Court tried their level best in satisfying both the parties and avoiding communal riots and distress in society. For such cases filled with the references to archaeological foundations, we must keep in mind that it is the law which provides justice upon which our multi-cultural society rests. Keeping in view the history, ideology and religion, and by determining the limits, the Supreme Court preserved the sense of balance that the belief of one does not interfere or suppress the freedom of another. In this case, the court cannot decide the title of ownership on the basis of faith but on the basis of evidence.


The judgement by the apex court has found acceptance and approval in large sections of the society. Yet, there are still some prominent voices that argue that “faith has won over the facts”.[7]No verdict has ever found total acceptance by the contending parties. The party that loses remains unhappy and the one that wins expresses satisfaction and joy. It is a natural law which is dictating the destiny of people across the globe. The closure of the judgement or acceptance of it by the communities largely depends on the positive intentions of the leaders and politicians. The efforts to restore communal amity and established social peace are much needed for the development and progress of the nation. The nation and its people progress when they decide to build a future pushing back the wrongdoings of the past.


[1] Mahant Raghubar Das , 61/280 , 1885

[2] Civil appeal No. 27, 1886 on the judgement in suit no. 61/280,1885

[3] Civil appeal No. 122, 1886 against judgement in civil appeal no.27 1886

[4] Procedure where dispute concerning land or water is likely to cause breach of peace.

[5] The Land Acquisition Act,1894

[6] Sushil Shrivastava, The ASI Report-A Review , The Hindu ,(September 17,2020 , 5;34pm) https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/The-ASI-Report-a-review/article16052925.ece

[7] Satish Misra, Looking at the pros and cons of Ayodhya judgement ,Observer Research Foundation (September 17, 2020, 6:00pm) – https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/looking-at-the-pros-and-cons-of-ayodhya-judgement-57681/


This blog has been authored by Muskaan Bindra, who is a Final Year B.B.A., LL.B. student at Amity Law School, Noida.