In an unanimous and historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Saturday settled the long-festering Ayodhya dispute by allowing Hindus to build a Ram temple on the disputed land while sanctioning Muslims five acres to build a mosque in the temple town.
The verdict by a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is expected to bring to an end a 70-year-old dispute that has divided Muslims and Hindus and caused to widespread bloodshed in the 1990s.
The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case was awarded in favour of “the deity of Lord Ram" who was held to be a “juristic person". The court directed that the disputed 2.7-acre land is to be handed over to a trust formed by the Central Government. This trust will build a temple on the disputed property.
The Muslim party is to be given a five-acre piece of land “either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya," ruled the bench comprising justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.
The judges ruled that the Centre will, within three months, form the scheme of setting up a board for a trust, which will formulate rules and powers for the construction of the temple.
The possession of the inner and outer courtyard is to be handed over to the trust for the management and development of the temple. A "statutory receiver" will be in possession of the land till completion of the scheme.
The court directed the State and Centre to act in consultation with each other to adhere to the orders of the court and for formulation and maintenance of the trust.
There were three main parties to the dispute. The Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination, Ram Lalla (or the infant Ram), represented by the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Sunni Waqf Board, which looks after religious properties. Fourteen appeals had been filed before the SC against a 2010 Allahabad high court judgment, which had said the disputed 2.7 acres should be equally divided among the three litigants.
On Saturday, the judges explained the rationale behind giving the title to the “Hindu party" in great detail.
“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. The Muslims have offered no 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."
The Archeological Survey of India had also reported that there existed a non-Islamic structure below the Babri Masjid. The court upheld that Babri Masjid was not constructed on barren land. The deductions of the ASI and accounts of the travellers were both cited in favour of the Hindu party.
In separate orders in favour of the Sunni Waqf board, the court said" "We direct that land measuring five acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya. This exercise, and the consequent handing over of the land to the Sunni Central Waqf Board, shall be conducted simultaneously with the handing over of the disputed site comprising of the inner and outer courtyards."
The court while issuing directions related to the Nirmohi Akhara stated that “we direct that in the scheme to be framed by the Central Government, appropriate representation may be given in the Trust or body, to the Nirmohi Akhara in such manner as the Central Government deems fit".
The bench dismissed the suit of Nirmohi Akhara.
“The Constitution postulates the equality of all faiths. Tolerance and mutual co-existence nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people," the court ruled. The bench also clarified its judgement was not on the basis of faith or beliefs but in the light of evidence established before the court.
“The judgment shows a classic application of Article 141 read with Article 142 of the Constitution of India, 1950. In a civil suit where title to the property was not the only governing factor, Honble Supreme Court pronounces a verdict favoring the interests of both the parties," said Advocate Tanuj Hazari of KNM & Partners law offices.