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Triumph over a Religious Debate

Back to History : ‘Here is a small piece of land (1500 square yards) where angels fear to tread….. It is full of innumerable landmines [1]’. -Justice Sibghat Ullah Khan


There was a long-standing debate over ‘134 years’ for, a land of ‘1500 square yards’ located at Ayodhya, district of Faizabad, State of Uttar Pradesh in throughout ‘134 years’. As a consequence of this long drawn legal battle, all groups including religious groups, pilgrims, saints etc. sat with anxiety to know the verdict i.e. who has the rightful claim of ownership over the disputed land.

BACKGROUND

The disputed property was claimed by the Hindu Nationalist parties as the birthplace of ‘Hindu God, Lord Rama’. But on ‘December 6, 1992’, the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque was destroyed by Hindu activists on the ground that this mosque had been constructed by a Mughal emperor, Babur on a temple of ‘12th century’ i.e., on the birth place of Lord Rama. Then, there were various challenges to this property and its ownership.

IN THE COURT OF LAW

Bommai decision -

The bench of the Supreme Court declared the integral importance of the place of secularism in the Constitution.

The court remarked on the distinctness of the concept of secularism in India - equal treatment of all religions & tolerance.

In this decision, the Supreme Court lamented the destruction of the mosque. Not only was the act of vandalism described as a ‘national sham. It shook the faith of minorities in justice & the constitutional process[2].

A SUBSTANTIAL SHIFT

In ‘M. Ismail Faruqui v. UOI’-

It involved a challenge to the Central Government’s acquisition of land at Ayodhya as well as the adjoining area following the destruction of the mosque.

‘Justice Verma’ went on to discuss that under Mohammedan law, a title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession. Even a mosque is not an essential practice of the religion of Islam and even namaz (prayer) can be offered anywhere.

The court also went through the Hindu belief that the disputed property was the birthplace of Lord Rama, so they had the right to worship.

The court upheld the constitutional validity of ‘Section 7(2) of the Ayodhya Act, 1993’ stating that the position existing prior to the destruction of mosque should remain in place, the court protected the worship of idols planted on the site of demolished mosque.

The court upheld the constitutional validity of the Act but declared ‘Section 4(3)’ of the Act that compulsorily abated the suits & legal proceedings pertaining to the disputed structure to be invalid.

‘Justice Verma’ towards the end of his decision proceeded to observe that Hinduism is a tolerant faith that has enabled all of these religions to find shelter & support in India.

CONCLUSION ON HINDUTVA

In ‘Shastri YagnaPurushadji v. Muldas Bhudardas Vaishya’, there was an extensive commentary regarding the identity of Hindus. ‘Hinduism does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion/creed & therefore, it could be broadly described as a way of life. In ‘Comm’r. of Wealth Tax, Madras v. Late R. Sridharan’, ‘Hinduism was described as doctrinally tolerant, leaving others - including both Hindus & non-Hindus - whatever creed & worship practices suit them best.

CHRONOLOGY

In the year 1992, through an order of the Indian Home Ministry, ‘Librahan Ayodhya Commission for Inquiry’ was set up to investigate the destruction of the disputed property.

In 1996, All the civil suits were made to come under a single table by the Allahabad High court.

In 2002 an order was passed by the High Court (HC) to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to find out if there is any evidence of a temple beneath the mosque.

SUBMISSION OF REPORTS

The ASI in 2003 submitted that the evidence of stone columns & pillars might be a representation of Hindu, Buddhist (or) Jain elements.

In 2009, the Librahan Commission blamed BJP for their role in demolition.

In 2010, Allahabad High court delivered its decision.

The Allahabad High Court on ‘September 30, 2010’, delivered its decision.


It was held by the majority that the disputed property was be split three ways -

1) One portion to the Muslims;

2) Two portions to two of the Hindu parties;

The decision was mainly based on the claim by the Hindu parties that idols were juridical entities to be given legal title over the property as it was a place of worship for Hindu faith.

1/3rd share was also given to the Sunni Waqf Board, as they have argued on the full title of the land where their mosque stood.

1/3rd share was even given to the Nirmohi Akhara as they have claimed that they were the guardians of that birthplace of Lord Rama.


Dissenting opinion by J. Dharam Veer Sharma:

It was held that the birthplace & idols were juristic persons & in its entirety, even the disputed land belonged to both.

ISSUES RAISED

o Construction of the meaning of secularism

o Right to freedom of religion

o Construction of religious identity

o The essential practices of Hindu & Muslim faith

The primary focus of the court, in this case, was on the right to freedom of religion rather than the title to the property.

The State can interfere to promote equal treatment of all religions served as a governing model of secularism in Post-colonial India, propounded by Mahatma Gandhi[3].

During December 2010, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha & Sunni Waqf board challenged the judgement of Allahabad High court.

In 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the decision given in Allahabad High court.

In 2015, there was a nationwide declaration to collect stones for the construction of Ram Mandir. But the Uttar Pradesh government was of the opinion that it may lead to communal tension.

During 2017, as this is a very sensitive issue; thus, the Supreme court appealed to all the stallholders of Babri-Masjid case to find an amicable solution.

In 2018, the Supreme Court started hearing civil appeals. The case was fixed before a 3-judge bench for hearing.

In 2019, a 5-judge bench was constituted for hearing including CJ Ranjan Gogoi, SA Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan & S A Nazeer.

In the same year, the Central government also moved to the Supreme court to seek permission to return ‘67 acres’ of land around the disputed property to the original owners. But this was opposed by Nirmohi Akhara.

Then the Apex Court favored mediation headed by former SC Judge Kallifulla.

Later, the mediation panel submits its report to the Supreme Court. Then the day-to-day hearing was conducted.

On November 9, 2019 the 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgement in ‘M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das’.

THE JUDGEMENT WAS IN FAVOUR OF HINDU FAITH

Thus, 2.77 acres of land was granted to the deity of Lord Rama. And 5 acres of land to build a mosque for Muslims.

Even the petition by Nirmohi Akhara claiming to be the custodian of land was dismissed.

It was also directed by the court for setting up a trust within 3-months for the construction of Ram mandir.

The court even stated that the faith of Hindus that Lord Rama was born at the place where Babri Masjid once stood could not be disputed.

The Supreme Court also stated that even the underlying structure below this disputed property is not an Islamic structure.


ENDNOTES [1] Visharad v. Ahmad, O.O.S., No. 1 of 1989, All. H.C., 4 (2010)

[2] S.R. Bommai v. UOI (1994) 2 SCC 1

[3] DONALD EUGENE SMITH, India as a Secular state (1963)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This blog has been authored by Thejaswini Sivapuram, who is a 3rd Year B.B.A., LL.B. student at Alliance University, Bangalore. 


[PUBLICATION NO. TLG_BLOG_20_111_04]

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