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[Case Summary] Ayodhya Verdict – M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v/s Mahant Suresh Das & Ors (2019)

WHO ARE THE PARTIES TO THE PRESENT SUIT?

The present case is titled as ‘M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v/s Mahant Suresh Das & Ors’. It is an appeal arising out of the judgment and order of the Allahabad High Court in the year 2010 to be numbered as Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010 read with other appeals. The parties to the present suit includes –

  • The Nirmohi Akhara which has been the shebait – manager of devasthan- of the Lord.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board which administers all wakfs in UP.
  • And the deity, Ram Lalla, which came into the litigation in 1989 through next best friend Deoki Nandan Agarwal, a former judge of the Allahabad High Court who later joined the VHP

(Many community groups like the All India Hindu Mahasabha and individuals like Iqbal Ansari joined on either the Hindu or the Muslim side.)

THE PRESENT SUIT IS DECIDED BY WHICH COURT AND ON WHICH DATE?

It is decided by the Supreme Court of India on November 9, 2019.

WHICH JUDGES DELIVERED THE PRESENT JUDGMENT?

The said judgment was delivered by the 5 judge bench consisting of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Abdul Nazeer.

WHAT ARE THE FACTS LEADING TO THE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE TWO COMMUNAL GROUPS – HINDU AND MUSLIMS?

Lord Rama was born in Ayodhya on the banks of the river Sarayu, according to the Ramayana. This place is identified with Ayodhya in present-day Uttar Pradesh. As per Hindu beliefs, an ancient temple stood at the birthplace to mark the spot. And that it was demolished in 1528 by first Mughal emperor Babur when he built a mosque – Babri Masjid – which was subsequently demolished by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992. The disputed property is of immense significance to Hindus and Muslims. The Hindu community claims it as the birthplace of Lord Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Muslim community claims it as the site of the historic Babri Masjid built by the first Mughal Emperor, Babur.

STATE THE TIMELINE OF THE DISPUTE BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT

1528 The Babri Masjid constructed on orders of emperor Babur. As per local tradition, it was built after demolishing the temple at the birth spot of Rama.
1859 The colonial British administration put a fence around the site, post a communal clash, denominating separate areas of worship for Hindus and Muslims.
1949 Idols were placed inside the mosque. Both sides to the dispute filed civil suits. The government declared the area to be disputed and locked the gates of the building. The matter was held to be sub-judice.
1984 The movement to build a temple at the site, gathered strength when Hindu groups formed a committee to spearhead the construction of a temple at the disputed site.
1986 An order was passed by the district judge to open the gates of the mosque and allow the Hindus to worship inside the structure.
1989 In the month of November, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad laid foundations of a temple on land adjacent to the disputed structure. There were sporadic clashes in the country subsequent to this.
1990 The then BJP president Lal Krishna Advani took out a cross-country rathyatra to garner support for the move to build a Ram temple at the site.
1992 The then Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh took steps to support the movement such as making entry into area easier, promising no firing on Karsevaks, opposing decision of central government to send Central Police force in the area, etc.

On 6th December, the mosque was demolished by nearly 2,00, 000 kar sevaks. This led to communal riots in many parts of the country.

2010 The Allahabad High Court pronounces its verdict on four title suits relating to the Ayodhya dispute on 30 September 2010. Ayodhya land to be divided into three parts.
2019 The 5-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, of Supreme Court started final hearing on the case.

WHAT WAS THE DECISION GIVEN BY THE ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT IN THE MATTER?

In Sep 2010, the Allahabad HC in a 2:1 majority, ruled three-way division of disputed area between Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. The inner court yard, where the dome once stood, went to the deity. The Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi nearby went to the Akhara. The Muslim side was left to take their one third after partition and adjustments from the extra land in and around, acquired by the govt. Each side was expected to give entry and exit rights to the other. All parties approached the Supreme Court and got it stayed.

 

WHICH ARE THE FOUR SUITS THAT HAVE BEEN APPEALED BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?

The dispute in these appeals arises out of four regular suits which were instituted between 1950 and 1989. Suit 1 filed by Gopal Singh Visharad is essentially a suit by a worshipper for enforcement of his right to worship Lord Ram at the Janmabhumi. Suit 3 filed by Nirmohi Akhara is for handing over the management and charge of the Janmabhumi temple to it. Suit 4 filed by Sunni Central Waqf Board is for a declaration that the entirety of the disputed site, including Babri Masjid and the surrounding graveyard, is a public mosque and for a decree for possession. Suit 5 is filed by the deity of Lord Ram and the Janmasthan (both of whom are asserted to be juridical persons) through a next friend impleaded as a third plaintiff for a declaration that the entire premises comprised of annexures 1, 2 and 3 to the plaint constitute Ram Janmabhumi and for an injunction against interference in the construction of a new temple after the demolition of the existing building.

WHAT WERE THE KEY ISSUES TO BE DECIDED IN THE PRESENT APPEAL?

  • Whether Suits 3, 4 and 5 or any of them are barred by limitation
  • Whether Suits 1, 3 and 5 are barred by res judicata
  • (a) Whether a Hindu temple existed at the disputed site
    1. (b) Whether the temple was demolished by Babur or at his behest by his commander for the construction of the Babri Masjid
    2. (c) Whether the mosque was constructed on the remains of and by using the materials of the temple and
    3. (d) What, if any are the legal consequences arising out of the determination on (a)(b) and (c) above
  • Whether the Muslims and or the Hindus have established the claim of worship and a possessory title over the disputed property
  • Whether the High Court was justified in passing a preliminary decree for a three way division of the disputed property in equal shares between the Nirmohi Akhara, the plaintiffs of Suit 4 and the plaintiffs of Suit 5
  • What, if any, relief ought to be granted in Suits 1, 3, 4 and 5

WHAT DID THE REPORT OF THE ARCHEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA CONCLUDE?

An Archaeological Survey of India probe submitted a voluminous report saying that proof had been found of a massive structure just below the demolished Babri Masjid. The survey claimed the presence of walls and pillars of a temple-like structure.

WHAT ARE THE DEMANDS OF THE PARTIES BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?

The Muslim side wants the masjid rebuilt at the same location. It also wants the SC to implement the Places of Worship Act 1991 which freezes all places of worship as they existed when India became free. This is to prevent spillovers to other disputed sites like Mathura and Kashi. The akhara and deity want possession of the land. The akhara is willing to concede the rights of the title to the deity if its shebait is recognised.

ON WHAT RATIONALE WAS THE JUDGMENT DELIVERED?

Secularism is thus more than a passive attitude of religious tolerance. It is a positive concept of equal treatment of all religions.

WHETHER “BHAGWAN SRI RAM VIRAJMAN” AND “ASTHAN SHRI RAM JANAM BHUMI” ARE JURISTIC PERSONS OR NOT?

For the devotees of Lord Ram, the first plaintiff in Suit 5, ―Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman‖ is the embodiment of Lord Ram and constitutes the resident deity of Ram Janmabhumi. In the present case, the first plaintiff has been the object of worship for several hundred years and the underlying purpose of continued worship is apparent even absent any express dedication or trust. Thus Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman is a juristic person while Asthan Shri Ram Janam Bhumi‘ is not a juristic person.

WHAT WERE THE OBSERVATIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT ON THE EVIDENCE OF THE CASE?

  • The disputed site is one composite whole. The railing set up in 1856-7 did not either bring about a sub-division of the land or any determination of title;
  • The Sunni Central Waqf Board has not established its case of a dedication by user;
  • The alternate plea of adverse possession has not been established by the Sunni Central Waqf Board as it failed to meet the requirements of adverse possession;
  • The Hindus have been in exclusive and unimpeded possession of the outer courtyard where they have continued worship;
  • The inner courtyard has been a contested site with conflicting claims of the Hindus and Muslims;
  • The existence of the structure of the mosque until 6 December 1992 does not admit any contestation. The submission that the mosque did not accord with Islamic tenets stands rejected. The evidence indicates that there was no abandonment of the mosque by Muslims. Namaz was observed on Fridays towards December 1949, the last namaz being on 16 December 1949;
  • The damage to the mosque in 1934, its desecration in 1949 leading to the ouster of the Muslims and the eventual destruction on 6 December 1992 constituted a serious violation of the rule of law; and
  • Consistent with the principles of justice, equity and good conscience, both Suits 4 and 5 will have to be decreed and the relief moulded in a manner which preserves the constitutional values of justice, fraternity, human dignity and the equality of religious belief.

The Hindus have established a clear case of a possessory title to the outside courtyard by virtue of long, continued and unimpeded worship at the Ramchabutra and other objects of religious signficance. The Hindus and the Muslims have contested claims to the offering worship within the three domed structure in the inner courtyard.

WHAT WERE THE FINAL DIRECTIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT?

  • Suit 3 instituted by Nirmohi Akhara is held to be barred by limitation and shall accordingly stand dismissed;
  • Suit 4 instituted by the Sunni Central Waqf Board and other plaintiffs is held to be within limitation. The judgment of the High Court holding Suit 4 to be barred by limitation is reversed; and
  • Suit 5 is held to be within limitation. Suit 5 is held to be maintainable at the behest of the first plaintiff who is represented by the third plaintiff;
  • The Central Government shall, within a period of three months from the date of this judgment, formulate a scheme pursuant to the powers vested in it under Sections 6 and 7 of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993. The scheme shall envisage the setting up of a trust with a Board of Trustees or any other appropriate body under Section 6. The scheme to be framed by the Central Government shall make necessary provisions in regard to the functioning of the trust or body including on matters relating to the management of the trust, the powers of the trustees including the construction of a temple and all necessary, incidental and supplemental matters;
  • Possession of the inner and outer courtyards shall be handed over to the Board of Trustees of the Trust or to the body so constituted. The Central Government will be at liberty to make suitable provisions in respect of the rest of the acquired land by handing it over to the Trust or body for management and development in terms of the scheme framed in accordance with the above directions; and
  • Possession of the disputed property shall continue to vest in the statutory receiver under the Central Government, untill in exercise of its jurisdiction under Section 6 of the Ayodhya Act of 1993, a notification is issued vesting the property in the trust or other body;
  • Simultaneously, with the handing over of the disputed property to the Trust or body under clause 2 above, a suitable plot of land admeasuring 5 acres shall be handed over to the Sunni Central Waqf Board, the plaintiff in Suit 4;
  • The land shall be allotted either by: (a) The Central Government out of the land acquired under the Ayodhya Act 1993; or (b) The State Government at a suitable prominent place in Ayodhya; The Central Government and the State Government shall act in consultation with each other to effectuate the above allotment in the period stipulated;
  • The Sunni Central Waqf Board would be at liberty, on the allotment of the land to take all necessary steps for the construction of a mosque on the land so allotted together with other associated facilities;
  • Suit 4 shall stand decreed to this extent in terms of the above directions; and
  • The directions for the allotment of land to the Sunni Central Waqf Board in Suit 4 are issued in pursuance o of the powers vested in this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

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