Settling the centuries-old dispute with regards to 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, the Supreme Court on Saturday by a unanimous decision gave the possession of the contested property to a trust that will oversee the construction and management of the Ram temple.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also directed the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government to allot five acres of land at an alternate site in Ayodhya to the Sunni Central Waqf Board to construct a mosque.
"The Central Government shall, within a period of three months from the date of this judgment, formulate a scheme pursuant to the powers vested in it under Sections 6 and 7 of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993. The scheme shall envisage the setting up of trust with a Board of Trustees ... The scheme to be framed by the Central Government shall make necessary provisions in regard to the functioning of the trust or body including on matters relating to the management of the trust, the powers of the trustees including the construction of a temple and all necessary, incidental and supplemental matters," the Supreme Court said in its judgement while paving the way for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The bench, comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, also came to the conclusion that the three-way bifurcation of the disputed property by the Allahabad High Court was "legally unsustainable."
"Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity," the top court said.
The Supreme Court directed the Central government to form a scheme within three months in relation to the management of the trust, to whom the land would be handed over, and also to give an appropriate role in the management to the Nirmohi Akhara.
The apex court in its judgement also said that under the Constitution of India, citizens of all faiths, beliefs and creeds seeking divine provenance are both subject to the law and equal before the law.
"Every judge of this Court is not merely tasked with but sworn to uphold the Constitution and its values. 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 ... In the present case, this Court is tasked with an adjudicatory task of a unique dimension. The dispute is over immovable property. The court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence," it said in the verdict.
The five-judge Constitution Bench further added: "The law provides us with parameters as clear but as profound as ownership and possession. In deciding title to the disputed property, the court applies settled principles of evidence to adjudicate upon which party has established a claim to the immovable property."
In an addenda (addition at the end) to the 929-page verdict, an anonymous judge, among the five-judge Constitution Bench, went into the question whether the disputed structure is the holy birthplace of Lord Ram as per the faith, belief and trust of the Hindus.
It concluded that "faith and belief of Hindus since prior to construction of Mosque and subsequent thereto has always been that Janmaasthan of Lord Ram is the place where Babri Mosque has been constructed which faith and belief are proved by documentary and oral evidence..."
The verdict was received by huge uproar outside the courtroom with several lawyers from the Hindu parties chanting "Jai Sri Ram". Senior advocate PS Narasimha, who had appeared for deity Ram Lalla Virajman, said top court verdict has reaffirmed the faith of Hindus.
Coming out of the courtroom after the verdict, Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board's counsel senior advocate Zafaryab Jilani said that they will be reviewing the verdict in detail before deciding the future course of action.
The top court in its judgement also explained the history of legal dispute of the issue. The disputed site has been a flashpoint of continued conflagration over decades. In 1856-57, riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the vicinity of the structure.
The then colonial government attempted to raise a buffer between the two communities to maintain law and order by setting up a grill-brick wall dividing the premises into two parts: the inner portion which would be used by the Muslim community and the outer portion or courtyard, which would be used by the Hindu community.
"The bifurcation, as the record shows, did not resolve the conflict and there were numerous attempts by one or other of the parties to exclude the other," the top court noted.
In January 1885, Mahant Raghubar Das, claiming to be the Mahant of Ram Janmasthan, instituted a suit before the Sub-Judge, Faizabad seeking permission to build a temple on the Ramchabutra situated in the outer courtyard.
The controversy entered a new phase on the intervening night of 22 and 23 December 1949, when the mosque was desecrated by a group of about fifty or sixty people who broke open its locks and placed idols of Lord Ram under the central dome. A First Information Report (FIR) was registered in relation to the incident.
While arriving at the verdict, the top court took note of the fact that despite the existence of a mosque at the site, Hindu worship at the place was not restricted.
"The existence of an Islamic structure at a place considered sacrosanct by the Hindus did not stop them from continuing their worship at the disputed site and within the precincts of the structure prior to the incidents of 1856-57," the top court noted.
After idols of Lord Ram were placed by Hindus in the inner courtyard in December 1949, the inner courtyard was attached under Section 145 of CrPC. Since 23 December 1949, worship has continued by the Hindus.
"During the pendency of the suits, the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in 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 Supreme Court remarked.
The bench said that justice would not prevail if it were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims.
"The allotment of land to the Muslims is necessary because though on a balance of probabilities, the evidence in respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims, the Muslims were dispossessed upon the desecration of the mosque on 22/23 December 1949, which was ultimately destroyed on 6 December 1992," it said.
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