The Supreme Court of India has always delivered interpretive wonders but the latest verdict on Ayodhya Dispute was not less than a miracle. The unanimous judgment of 1045 pages was delivered by a constitutional bench of 5 judges headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S A Bobde, Justice D Y Chandrachud., Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Ashok Bhushan. With the verdict, the Supreme Court has resolved the 7 decades-old legal battle of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi. Before pronouncement of judgment various attempts were made for mediation, which turned out to be fruitless. It was solved by the bench in 40 days; from 16th October to 9th November 2019 the bench was hearing the matter and it was proven to be the end of the most sensitive issue of the Country. This Article is a careful study of the encyclopedic decision of this contentious case.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE SUITS
Before understanding the ruling of M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors. on 9 November 2019, it is essential to understand the suits before the Court as the matter was itself very complicated and so does the 5 suits before it are-
SUIT 1 – This suit was instituted by Gopal Singh Visharad (a resident of Ayodhya) in the capacity of a follower of Sanatan Dharam, wherein he prayed the Court for a declaration regarding worship and darshan of Lord Ram at the Janmabhoomi temple without any hindrance. He also prayed for the permanent injunction from removing idols of Lord Ram, closing the way to the idols, or causing interference in the worship of idols and darshan. According to the Plaintiff, the Cause of Action arose on 14th January 1950 when he was prevented from going inside the place to worship.
SUIT 2 – On 5th December 1950, another suit was instituted by Paramhans Ramchandra Das before the Civil Judge, Faizabad seeking reliefs similar to those in Suit 1. Suit 2 was subsequently withdrawn on 18th September 1990.
SUIT 3 – The suit was instituted by Nirmohi Akhara seeking a decree for the removal of Janmabhoomi temple and delivering it to the Plaintiff. It was pleaded by the Plaintiff in this suit that an ancient Akhada of Nirmohis was established and the Janmabhoomi place has always been managed by Nirmohi Akhara. But on 5th January 1950 the management and charge of the place was taken away from the Nirmohi Akhara by the Magistrate and was granted to the receiver under Section 145 of Cr.P.C. and since then, Plaintiff has been wrongfully deprived of the management and charge of the temple.
SUIT 4 – This suit was instituted by Sunni Central Waqf Board and 9 Muslim residents of Ayodhya on 18th December 1961. The suit was averred to be filed on behalf of all the Muslim community. In the suit it was stated that the Cause of Action arose when on 23rd December 1949 when the Hindus are alleged to have wrongfully entered the mosque and demolished it.
SUIT 5 – The suit was instituted in the name of Bhagwan Sri Ram Lalla Virajman on 1st July 1989. The deity was described as the Plaintiff.
These were the main issues framed before the Court, which needed to be decided in order to solve the dispute –
1. Whether Suits are barred by limitation?
2. Whether the decision of Faizabad District Court will operate as Res Judicata?
3. Whether a Hindu temple existed at the disputed site and whether the temple was demolished by Babur or at his behest by his commander Mir Baqi in 1528 for the construction of the Babri Masjid?
4. Whether the deity Ram Lalla is a juristic person?
5. Whether the suit property is according to the faith and belief of the Hindus is the birth-place of Lord Ram?
6. Whether on the 23/24th December 1949, hindu idols were installed under the Central dome of Babri Masjid?
7. Whether it is open to the Court to determine if the three-domed structure which existed at the disputed site prior to 6th December 1992 was a mosque in accordance with Islamic tenets?
8. Whether the Muslims and or the Hindus have established the claim of worship and a possessory title over the disputed property?
9. 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, Sunni Waqf Board, and Hindus?
LAWS APPLICABLE AND CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
During the Proceeding before the Supreme Court, Counsels in order to substantiate their contentions relied upon the statute such as The Places of Worship Act which has been enacted to fulfill two purposes.
First, it prohibits the conversion of any place of worship. Second, the law seeks to impose a positive obligation to maintain the religious characters of every place of worship as it existed on 15th August 1947 when India achieved Independence from Colonial Rule.
Apart from this Act, the Court also took into account the theories of eminent jurists like Salmond and Roscoe Pound with a view to understand the juristic personality of idols of Lord Rama and Mosque. The Court extracted the observations made in precedents such as in the case of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar v. Som Nath Das, wherein the Court had to determine whether Guru Granth Sahib possess a legal Personality. The Apex Court not only referred to the landmarks judgments but also the theories and observation of many Judges in relevant case laws, Jurists, and Researchers. Also, to interpret the structure of the Mosque, the Court referred to the theories of Hadith.
It was very essential for Hindu parties to prove that Lord Ram was born at the disputed land and there existed a Temple before Mosque. Thus, to prove the same, the oral evidence along with documentary evidence was produced in the Court.
The documentary evidence produced in this verdict is very different. One such documents was ‘Valimiki Ramayan‘. However, it is true that ‘Valmiki Ramayan‘ does not give any evidence about the birthplace of Lord Ram except that Lord Ram was born to Kaushalya at Ayodhya.
Furthermore, the Jagatguru Ramanandacharya, Swami Rambhadracharya stated that Ram’s birthplace is Ayodhya Mahtmya. The additional version refers to Janma Sakhies which speaks about the visit of Guru Nanak to Ayodhya for darshan of Ram’s Birth Place. It was stated by Court that all these beliefs cannot be groundless when so many religious books talk about the birthplace of Lord Ram at Ayodhya. Moreover, the Judges cited Ramcharitramanas and considered it under Gazetteers under Evidence Act, 1872. The Court referred to the report of the Archeological Survey of India. The documentary evidence is categorized into 533 exhibits. These entail:-
1. Religious Texts
4. Translation of inscription on the pillars
5. Reports of Archaeological Excavations
6. Photographs prior to demolition
7. Details of artifacts found at the disputed site.
In oral depositions, as mentioned in the trial Court judgment, every party produced their own witnesses who were expert Historians, Archaeologists, Religious Matters And Epigraphist. Their statements were recorded under Order X Rule 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. Further, it was stated in by Sunni Central Waqf Board that the suit property is dedicated to almighty God and is a Mosque the use of the entire Muslim Community. They also added that even if the defendant had any right in property it stood extinguished by a lapse of time and the plaintiff (Sunni Waqf Board) had acquired the title of possession.The learned Court, after contemplating the witnesses and pieces of evidence produced by every party, observed that there is no dispute in regard to the faith and belief of the Hindu that the birthplace of Lord Rama is ascribed to have taken place at Ayodhya as described in Valmiki’s Ramayan instead dispute is whether the dispute is the site below the central dome of the Babri Masjid is the place of birth of Lord Rama since Muslim parties have expressly denied the existence of Ram Janambhoomi temple at the site of Babri Masjid so it becomes necessary to advert to the salient aspects of the documentary evidence.
It is very important for Hindus, to prove Lord Ram as a juristic or legal person, to extinguish all other competing claims to the land in question. The recognition was made in two premises. The first is to recognize the pious purpose of the testator as a legal entity capable of holding property in an ideal sense. In the second premise, the Court merged the pious purpose of the testator with the faith of devotees to fulfill the pious purpose itself. Hence, Hindu Idol is considered as a juristic person.
The reason why the Court created such legal fictions is to provide a comprehensive legal framework to protect the properties dedicated to the pious purpose from the external threats as well as maladministration. Nevertheless, the extinguishment of other competing claims arises not by the settled legal principles but purely on the belief and faith of devotees.
The other important submission made by Hindus is ‘existence of a temple beneath the Mosque’. According to Archeological Survey of India, the area of excavation reveals the significant traces of successive civilizations. Furthermore, the existing structure underlying there since 12th century. There exist large dimensions, evident from the fact that there were 85 pillar bases and 17 rows each of the five pillars. The foundation of the mosque is based on the large pre-existing structure from the date back to the 12th century. Moreover, there is a gap of almost four centuries between the construction of the underlying structure and mosque. But there exists no evidence to explain what transpired in the course of the intervening of nearly four centuries. Conclusively, the Court declared that there is no evidence in a case of this antiquity on the cause of the destruction of the underlying structure and whether the pre-existing structure was demolished for the construction of the mosque.
The last and important submission made by learned Senior Counsel was that the ‘Babri Masjid lacked the essential feature of a valid mosque in relation to location, design, and construction under Islamic Jurisprudence’. All these submissions were upheld by the Supreme Court of India.
The highly anticipated judgement was pronounced by Supreme Court on the 9th day of November, 2019. The entire land was granted to Hindus for the construction of Temple. The land should be handed over to trust that the Centre must constitute guidelines within three months to oversee the construction of the temple. Further the Court said the testimony such as Bhandar Grih, Sita Rasaoi, and Ram Chabutra are some of the religious facts of the place. The claim of Nirmohi Akhara was rejected, as it was barred by limitation. The Court directed the Central Government to grant 5 acres of land to the Muslims as the Court pronounced the ‘Secularism’ of the nation will only prevail when the equivalent land is delivered to the Muslims for Masjid. Everybody was convinced with the decision execpt the All India Muslim Personal Board. Few days after the judgment, they have decided to file Review Petition and declined to accept alternate land for Masjid.
Though Review Petition is rarely taken up by Supreme Court, nonetheless AIMPLB was not a party of the suit. Usually, after the failure of Review Petition, Curative Petition is also filed. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court cannot satisfy everyone. Even though there exist a lot of controversies but still the way people accepted the Judgement is worth appreciating and they proved that we Indians are secular by heart.