NEW DELHI: In a historic unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court on Saturday cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya while ordering an alternative five-acre land for building a mosque.
The verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A. Nazeer ruled that the disputed 2.77 acres of land would go to the deity Ram Lalla.
The land would remain with the Central government until the Centre forms a trust within three months and that the central or state government would have to allot a five-acre piece of land to the Muslims for the construction of a mosque in Ayodhya at a prominent place.
But in significant observations, the apex court said the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 was an “egregious violation of the rule of the law” and that the placing of idols below the central dome of the mosque was an act of “desecration.”
“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 court observed.
Several Muslim organizations, including the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, expressed “disappointment” at the verdict and hinted at filing a review petition. But hours later, they changed their stand after the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, one of the petitioners in the case, said it was against such a move.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while terming the verdict as India’s golden moment, said it would herald a new dawn.
He said all contentious issues could be resolved within the framework of the Constitution and equated the judgment with the fall of the Berlin wall. In a statement, BJP patriarch L K Advani said he had been vindicated by the court.
Hailing the verdict, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh supremo Mohan Bhagwat said the outfit had taken part in the Ram temple movement as an exception and would now solely focus on its principal mandate on building character of the people.
Striking a conciliatory note for the minority community, Bhagwat said all should forget the bitterness of the past and work for a society free of fear and suspicion.
Welcoming the court’s order, the Congress said the verdict had shut the doors on politics over the Ram temple.
The bench ruled that the Hindu organization, the Nirmohi Akhara, would not be the shebait, but would instead get to be a member of the trust.
“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,” the court said in the 1045 page judgmentThe Constitution speaks to the judges who interpret it, to those who govern who must enforce it, but above all, to the citizens who engage with it as an inseparable feature of their lives,” the court further said.
‘Decision based on ASI report’
The court relied on the report of the ASI, which carried out excavation at the site in Ayodhya in August 2003 following a direction of the Allahabad High Court, and observed that the masjid was not built on vacant land but its foundation was based on portions of a large pre-existing structure, dating to the 12th century, of a Hindu religion origin.
“The underlying structure which provided the foundations of the mosque together with its architectural features and recoveries are suggestive of a Hindu religious origin comparable to temple excavations in the region and pertaining to the era,” the court said. Holding that the 1992 demolition of the masjid was wrong, the court said: “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...”
“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 court in the exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied,” it said.