The Supreme Court, on October 17, Wednesday reserved its verdict after arguments in the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya concluded. The top court has also asked all the parties to submit a written submission over relief sought from the court against the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict within three days, which said that the disputed site should be divided into three equal parts among Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Wakf Board.
The final verdict, however, is expected to come before November 17, the date when Chief Justice of India (CJI), Ranjan Gogoi, who is leading the five-judge constitution bench hearing the case, will leave the office due to his retirement. If the court fails to deliver a judgement before then, the entire matter will have to be heard afresh in front of a new judge as decided by the next Chief Justice of India. However, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer are the other members of the bench with the CJI.
The judges had been sticking to a strict timeline after attempts to sort out the case through mediation failed. Over the last weeks, they have extended the timing of the hearings and rebuked the advocates for spinning it out.
On Wednesday, as soon as the arguments in the case began, CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that the hearing in the case will conclude this day by 5 PM. “This matter is going to be over by 5 pm today. Enough is enough,” CJI Gogoi said. He said this when a lawyer and leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Subramaniam Swamy asked the apex court for more time for the arguments. The daily hearings in the case have been continuing since August 6 when the mediation process failed to yield any result and October 17 was fixed as the deadline for both the parties to conclude their arguments.
According to the reports, the court had appointed a three-member team for the mediation process, comprising of former Supreme Court justice FM Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, which eventually failed to find an amicable solution to the dispute.
The team told the court that “some parties” were not ready to sort out the issue through mediation. On Wednesday morning, the team presented their final inputs on the issue to the court in a sealed cover.
Being a politically and religiously sensitive case, it is axiomatic for the court to witness heated exchanges between the two sides during the hearing. The arguments became so intense that at one point, CJI Ranjan Gogoi even warned that the judges will walk out if the decorum of the court is not maintained.
The CJI’s angry reaction came after the senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing the Muslim sides in the case, tore the maps and other documents handed over to him by the counsel representing the Hindu Mahasabha, informed a source. He said that the map, forwarded by the Hindu petitioners, could not be submitted as evidence at such an advance in the hearing. However, the court had earlier refused to accept it.
Arguing on behalf of the Hindu party or Ram Lalla Virajman, senior advocate K Parasaran said that there are numerous mosques in Ayodhya where Muslims can offer prayers but the birthplace of Lord Ram is authentic and cannot be changed.
“Muslims can pray in any other mosque as well. There are 55-60 mosques in Ayodhya alone. But for Hindus, it is the birthplace of Lord Ram. We can’t change the birthplace,” Parasaran, a former advocate general, argued in the court. While, the Muslim respondents have said that there was no claim for the title of the land in Ayodhya by Hindus until 1989. They asked for the restoration of the Babri Masjid as it stood before it was demolished in December 1992.
The Supreme Court is hearing the sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute on a daily basis since the past 40 days. The Allahabad High Court in 2010 had ordered that the disputed 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be divided equally among the three parties in the case – the Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and the Sunni Waqf Board. However, the verdict was challenged in the Supreme Court. Notably, fourteen appeals had been filed in the top court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement. The six-decade old dispute over the land in Ayodhya, which right-wing activists believe was the birthplace of Lord Ram, seem to see the verdict soon.
In December 1992, right-wing activists completely destroyed a 16th Century mosque which stood at the disputed land. The activists believed that the mosque was built by Mughal Emperor Babur after demolishing a temple that marked Lord Ram’s birthplace. In the days that followed, 2,000 people died in riots across the country.
Considering the anticipatory critical situation in the city, the Uttar Pradesh government has imposed Section 144 in Ayodhya since October 14, 2019, Monday, when the hearing in Supreme Court resumed after Dussehra break. The prohibitory orders will remain in place till December 10, officials said. The administration has also demanded the deployment of a large number of security forces to maintain the law and order and communal harmony, news agency PTI reported.