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Why in the News?
Recently, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the long-running title suit at Ayodhya on appeals against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment.
A bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi delivered the Ayodhya verdict alongside CJI designate S.A. Bobde, and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, and S.A. Nazeer. The verdict was unanimous.
What was the issue?
At the center of the issue is the belief among sections of Hindus that the Babri Masjid, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built in Ayodhya after destroying a Ram Temple that marked the birthplace of the deity.
The Hindu parties wanted the land to themselves, contending that Lord Rama was born at a spot on which later the central dome of the mosque was built.
The Muslim parties, however, contended that the mosque was constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqi, a commander of Babur’s army, without demolishing any place of worship and since the land rights had not been transferred to any other party, space was rightfully theirs.
Background in details :
The Babri mosque was built in Ayodhya in 1528. Hindu groups claim it was built after demolishing a temple.
In 1853, the first recorded communal clashes over the site took place. In 1859, the British administration put a fence around the site marking separate areas of worship for Hindus and Muslims, and it stood that way for nearly 90 years.
The property dispute went to court for the first time in 1949 after the idols of Lord Ram were placed inside the mosque.
The mosque was demolished in 1992, which was followed by communal riots across India.
In April 2002, a 3-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court began hearings on determining who owned the site. The court pronounced its verdict in 2010, where it divided the disputed portion into three parts, each going to Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla, and the Sunni Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh.
Ram Lalla i.e. Lord Ram himself was a party to the case as in 1989 a petition was filed in court in which the petitioner argued that Lord Ram is a juristic person (a body recognized by the law as being entitled to rights and duties in the same way as a natural or human person).
Within months, Hindu groups and Muslim groups moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court verdict. In 2011, the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad High Court order.
After mediation proceedings by a Supreme Court-appointed three-member team failed to find an amicable solution to the dispute earlier this year, a five-judge constitution bench began hearings on August 6, which went on for 40 days.
Key highlights from the verdict:
The SC said that archaeological evidence cannot be brushed aside as conjecture and hypothesis.
Archaeological evidence supports that the Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land but a Hindu structure.
However, the Archaeological Survey of India's findings did not say whether a Hindu temple was demolished to construct a mosque.
The court also said that the destruction of the mosque in 1992 happened in breach of SC orders. The desecration of the mosque by placing idols in 1949 and its demolition was contrary to the law.
The SC has allotted the entire 2.77-acre disputed land for temple construction.
The Centre to formulate a scheme in three months to set up a board of trustees for construction of the temple at the disputed structure.
The court has also ordered that suitable alternative land, measuring five acres, will be allotted for setting up a mosque.
The land will be given to the Sunni Waqf Board.
The SC ruled that the Allahabad High Court judgment in the case in 2010 was wrong in dividing the disputed site into three parts.
The SC ruled that the Nirmohi Akhara suit was not maintainable and it has no she bait rights (priestly rights).
However, the court directed that in the Board of Trustees that will be set up, the Nirmohi Akhara should be given appropriate representation.
The claim of Shia Waqf Board against Sunni Board to Babri Masjid was also dismissed.
The Supreme Court reiterated that Secularism is part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.
What is Article 142, invoked by SC to give land for a mosque?
The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 "to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied".
Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
In the past also, the court has used this Article to do justice in cases such as between Jaypee and homebuyers, the Bhopal gas tragedy, etc. But, this was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over immovable property, involving private parties.
What is adverse possession, the Muslim claim SC rejected?
One of the questions before the Supreme Court was whether the Sunni Wakf Board had acquired the title of the disputed land by adverse possession.
Adverse possession is hostile possession of a property – which has to be continuous, uninterrupted, and peaceful. The Muslim side had claimed that the mosque was built 400 years ago by Babar – and that even if it is assumed that it was built on the land where a temple earlier existed, Muslims, under their long exclusive and continuous possession – beginning from the time the mosque was built, and up to the time the mosque was desecrated – they had perfected their title by adverse possession.
This argument has now been rejected by the Supreme Court.
Significance of the Judgement
Consensus Building- The court has given the judgment after hearing detailed arguments and allowing all the major parties to sit and build consensus on various contentious issues.
Unanimous judgment- There was unanimity of views of the five judges including the Chief Justice of India. Given the nature of the decades-long dispute, its political significance, and religious overtones, the unanimous judgment serves to keep the temperature down.
Non-religious tone and tenor- The judgment itself states that constitutional values have facilitated the lawful resolution of the title dispute. The court has delivered the judgment based on evidence, not faith and belief. The court has also given strong criticism of the demolition of the mosque in 1992. Such an approach can be a template for such cases in the future also.
Practical and Implementable- The court while putting aside the Allahabad High Court judgment has made way to a solution, which is implementable on the ground.
Win-Win Situation- Using Article 142 and giving adequate relief and compensation to all parties, then the court has tried to reach a complete verdict, which satisfies all parties.
Shut doors for other such cases- Owing to exhaustion of all the avenues, possibilities, legal remedies, and pronouncement of a complete verdict, this judgment has a virtually closed door for other such cases relating to this matter.