A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Saturday laid to rest 169 years of a dispute that has caused tectonic shifts in India’s socio-political landscape by maintaining the title suit of the juristic personality of Ram Lalla over the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri mosque site.
Although the judges were unanimous in their view that the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992 was a “calculated act of destroying a place of public worship”, the Court paved the way for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya by asking the Centre to set up a trust which will have powers to decide ob all related matters “including construction of a temple”. While the Court dismissed the claim by Sunni Central Waqf Board on the title of the disputed property, it maintained that the Waqf was to be allotted an alternative “suitable plot of land” measuring five acres by way of restitution. The judges maintained 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 law”.
Dismissing the older suits by Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Central Waqf Board and maintaining Suit Number 5 filed by the late Justice (retd.) Devki Nandan Agarwal in 1989, the Court said, “Suit 5 is held to be maintainable”. According to Suit 5, Lord Ram was born and manifested himself in human form as an incarnation of Vishnu at the premises in dispute. The suit maintains that the site – Ram Janmasthan – is an object of worship since it personifies the divine spirit worshipped in the form of Lord Ram. This suit asserts that the place belongs to the deities and no valid Waqf was ever created or could have been created. The Court allowed the suit of Ram Lalla for the title of the disputed land but held that the Muslims too need to be compensated.
“Suit 5 has been held to be maintainable at the behest of the first plaintiff (the deity of Lord Ram) who is a juristic person… We are of the view that on the one hand a decree must ensue in Suit 5 (Ram Lalla), Suit 4 (Sunni Central Waqf Board) must also be partly decreed by directing the allotment of alternate land to the Muslims for the construction of a mosque and associated activities. The allotment of land to the Muslims is necessary because though on 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 abducted by the Muslims, the Muslims were dispossessed upon the desecration of the mosque on December 22-23, 1949 which was ultimately destroyed on December 6, 1992. There was no abandonment of the mosque by Muslims. This Court in exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied. 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 law,” said the Court.
While allowing Suit Number 5, the Court directed the Centre to formulate a scheme within three months effectively for the construction of the temple.
“The Central Government shall, within a period of three months from the date of this judgement, 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. This scheme shall envisage the setting up of a trust with a Board of Trustees or any other appropriate body under Section 6. 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,” said the Court.
“Possession of the inner and outer courtyards shall be handed over to the Board of Trustees of the Trust or to the body so constituted. The Central Government will be at liberty to make suitable provisions in respect of the rest of the acquired land by handing it over to the Trust or body for management and development in terms of the scheme framed in advance of the above directions,” the Court added.
According to Section 7(2) of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993, the “disputed area” comprises the “premises of the inner and outer courtyards of the structure commonly known as the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in village Kot Ramchandra in Ayodhya, in Pargana Haveli Awadh, tehsil Faizabad Sadr, District Faizabad”. The entire disputed site comprises of 120/40 feet of the Inner Courtyard where the three domes of the Babri mosque stood before its demolition on December 6, 1992 as well as 120/40 feet of the Outer Courtyard where the Ram Chabutara was. The idols are now placed at 12/11.5 metre makeshift temple where the middle dome of the Babri mosque had once stood.