Finally, the judgement has come in the long drawn Babri Masjid case. As promised earlier by all the Muslim organisations, the decision has been accepted with grace and humility though, naturally, with sadness. There was a sense of despondency in some, sense of resignation in some and sense of relief for some at the final closure of the case. For most Muslims under 40 years of age, they have virtually grown up with the issue and are emotionally attached to it. It has to be remembered that the 16th century Mosque was destroyed on 6th December 1992 despite undertaking from state government to protect it.
Five Judges led by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gagoi, gave judgement on 9 November 2019 thus, hopefully, drawing curtains on the longest land dispute between Hindus and Muslim in Independent India. The other Judges were SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.
The judgement puts an end to the uncertainty. While giving the 2.77 acre of land to the Temple, the supreme court accepted the assertions of the Muslim plaintiffs on almost every point except giving possession to the Muslims. The Supreme Court of India accepted most the arguments put forward by the Muslims such as:
- Supreme Court accepted the Muslim assertion that the Archeological Survey of India report of 2003 does not prove that a temple was demolished to construct the Babri Masjid
- Supreme Court also accepted the Muslim assertion that Ram Lalla can be a juristic person but not the Ram Janamsthan. However, the Court did not apply the law of limitation on Ram Lalla
- The Supreme Court clearly accepted that the Muslims offered prayers in the inner courtyard.
- Supreme Court accepted that the demolition of Babri Masjid was a violation of law.
- The Supreme Court also accepted that the placement of Idols in the Babri Masjid on 22-23 December 1949 was an illegal act and an act of trespass.
Despite accepting almost every point raised by Muslims, the Supreme Court in its wisdom gave the final judgment in favour of a Ram Mandir. The final decision was based on the assertion by The Supreme Court that the Sunni Waqf Board has not been able to establish its claim of adverse possession. Looking at the operative parts of the Judgement, it seems that The Supreme Court has upheld the Majoritarian point of view, as pointed out by Faizan Mustafa, but it did reparation and invoked Article 142 of The Indian Constitution (Article 142 deals with the special powers of the Court) and directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to allot a 5 acre plot to Muslims to construct Mosque. The Court further said that the Mosque should be constructed at a ‘prominent site’. For the time being, the ownership of 2.77 acre that comprised the Mosque and courtyard have been given to the Government for a period of three months. The Supreme Court has ordered the Government of India to constitute a trust within three months to oversee the construction of Ram Mandir at the site.
As suggested by Madhav Godbole, former Union Home Secretary, the Mosque should be rebuilt by the Government of India as promised by the then Prime Minister of India, P. V. Narasimha Rao, at the time of Mosques demolition. Better still, the Supreme Court could have ordered the same trust to build the Mosque as well. However, there are certain points to ponder. Various possibilities arise from this Judgment.
- Firstly, a decision whether to go for review petition against the order or not? Theoretically this is one last legal option left to be explored. There are many, for example Wajahat Habibullah, who favour review petition to take the case to its logical conclusion. But it seems unlikely as pointed out by Imam Ahmad Bukhari of Delhi’s Jama Masjid.
- Secondly, whether to accept the land given in lieu of Babri Masjid or not. This is most probable as the Sunni Central Waqf Board chairman has hinted that the Waqf Board will accept the land.
- Thirdly, if the land is accepted then what to do with that land. One option is to make a Mosque. There are already many Mosques in Ayodhya. What purpose will one more Mosque serve? The case was not about a Mosque. Many times alternate land was offered to Muslims in liue of Babri Masjid. Muslims always rejected the offer and continued their legal battle with the promise that they will follow the Courts ruling. Second option is to take the land and not do anything with the land. The third option as suggested by many is to make an educational institution with a small functional Mosque in it.
I am not in a position to say what will be the final decision of the Sunni Central Waqf Board in this regard and whether the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) will go for review petition or not. I just wish that good comes out of this and this decision leads to an India which is at peace with itself and every community is free to practice its religion without let or hindrance. The final outcome of the decision will be clear only after some time and Historians and Sociologists in future will decide as to how this decision affected the polity and society of India and how it changed India.
References and for more, Please see:
Henry, N. (2019, November 9) Ayodhya Explained: Supreme Court Chose Faith Over Law, Jurist Faizan Mustafa Says. Avilable at: https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/ayodhya-explained-supreme-court-faizan-mustafa-says_in_5dc694b5e4b02bf57940668f. Accessed on 11 November 2019.
Shrma, B. (2018, December 5) There Is No Evidence Of A Temple Under The Babri Masjid, Just Older Mosques, Says Archeologist. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/12/04/there-is-no-evidence-of-a-temple-under-the-babri-masjid-asi-lied-to-the-country-say-archeologists_a_23604990/?ncid=other_huffpostre_pqylmel2bk8&utm_campaign=related_articles. Accessed on 11 November 2019.
Bisht, A. (2019, November 9). As Hindus rejoice, Muslim reaction mixed over Ayodhya verdict. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/hindus-rejoice-muslim-reaction-mixed-ayodhya-verdict-191109131954176.html. Accessed on 9 November 2019.
Masih, A. (2019, November 11) The mosque should be rebuilt by Government of India. Available at: https://www.rediff.com/news/interview/mosque-should-be-rebuilt-by-government-of-india/20191111.htm. Accessed on 11 November 2019
Ayodhya case: Sunni Waqf Board likely to take decision on accepting land on Nov 26. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ayodhya-case-sunni-waqf-board-likely-to-take-decision-on-accepting-land-on-nov-26/articleshow/71992492.cms. Accessed on 11 November 2019.
What Is The Result Of The Ayodhya Case? 10 Things To Know About The SC’s Verdict. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/ayodhya-verdict-babri-demolition-ram-temple-key-points_in_5dc64591e4b00927b2335eca?ncid=other_huffpostre_pqylmel2bk8&utm_campaign=related_articles. Accessed on 11 November 2019.
Outlook India (2019, November 11) Ex-NCM chief Wajahat Habibullah says Ayodhya verdict ”deeply flawed”, favours review. Available at: https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/exncm-chief-wajahat-habibullah-says-ayodhya-verdict-deeply-flawed-favours-review/1660144. Accessed on 11 November 2019.
Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya: Jama Masjid Shahi Imam says matter shouldn’t be stretched further. Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/supreme-court-verdict-on-ayodhya-jama-masjid-shahi-imam-says-matter-shouldnt-be-stretched-further/articleshow/71984503.cms?from=mdr. Accessed on 10 November 2019.
Damage, desecration & demolition of Babri Masjid illegal act, says SC. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/damage-desecration-demolition-of-babri-masjid-illegal-acts-says-sc/articleshow/71989378.cms. Accessed on 10 November 2019.
Disputed Ayodhya site goes to temple, Muslims to get alternative land: SC. Available at: https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/disputed-ayodhya-land-goes-to-temple-alternate-5-acre-land-for-mosque-sc-119110900411_1.html. Accessed on 10 November 2019.