Even before the Supreme Court decided in favour of the Hindu claim over the site where the Babri mosque once stood, the Muslims had apparently agreed to relinquish the title based on certain conditions.
The disputed site at Ayodhya comprised three domes of the now-demolished Babri mosque, which consisted of an “inner courtyard” and an “outer courtyard” where Hindu worship had continued. The two were separated by a grill brick that came up in 1857 after a communal clash in 1855. While the Supreme Court held that the Hindus had undisputed claim over the “outer courtyard” and the Muslims failed to substantiate their possession over the “inner courtyard”, the Muslims seemed to have given up hope beforehand.
The final arguments in the case concluded on October 16, 2019. The same day, the mediation panel comprising former judge FM Khalifula, advocate Sriram Panchu and religious guru Sri Sri Ravishankar submitted a report titled “Final Report of the Committee”.
The Constitution Bench judgment on the Ayodhya title suit mentions a significant revelation in the mediation panel’s report. “…(The Final Report of the Committee) stating that a settlement had been arrived at by some of the parties to the present dispute.
It was signed by Zufar Ahmad Faruqi, Chairman of the Sunni Central Waqf Board. Though, under the settlement, the Sunni Central Waqf Board agreed to relinquish all its rights, interests and claims over the disputed land, this was subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions stipulated.”
Indication of intent
While the mediation failed because this particular settlement agreement had not been agreed to or signed by all the parties, it was an important indication of the Muslims’ intent and resignation in the case.
The Supreme Court ultimately decided that while the Babri mosque was built in 1528, the Muslims failed to offer any evidence to show that they were in exclusive possession of the “inner structure” prior to 1857 when the grill brick wall came up between the inner and outer structure.
However, the Court conceded that evidence emerged after 1857 of namaz being offered in the mosque up until December 16, 1949.
“The exclusion of the Muslims from worship and possession took place on the intervening night between December 22 and 23, 1949 when the mosque was desecrated by the installation of Hindu idols. The ouster of the Muslims on that occasion was not through any lawful authority but by an act which was calculated to deprive them of their place of worship. After the proceedings under Section 145 of the CrPC, 1898 were initiated and a receiver was appointed following the attachment of the inner courtyard, worship of the Hindu idols was permitted. 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,” said the Court.
The Court held that the Hindus have clear evidence to indicate that they worshipped in the outer courtyard uninterrupted, despite the setting up of the grill brick wall in 1857.
As regards the inner courtyard where the mosque domes stood, the Court found evidence that the Hindus worshipped there prior to the annexation of Oudh province by the British in 1857.
“On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it. As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century,” said the Court.
‘Wrong must be remedied’
The Court, therefore, allowed Suit 5, originally filed by Deoki Nandan Agarwala as a “friend of the Lord Ram” who is the first plaintiff in this suit. But while it said that the decree must ensue in Ram Lalla’s case, the Muslims, represented by the Sunni Central Waqf Board, should be compensated.
The Court held that justice would not prevail if the claim of the Muslims is entirely overlooked.
“We are of the view that, on the one hand, a decree must ensue in Suit 5 (Ram Lalla case), Suit 4 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 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 December 22/23, 1949 which was ultimately destroyed on December 6, 1992. There was no abandonment of the mosque by the Muslims. This Court in the 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 rule of law. The Constitution postulates the equality of all faiths. Tolerance and mutual co-existence nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people,” said the Court.
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