- What was the Ayodhya dispute?
- Key highlights of the judgement
- Article 142
- How the Supreme Court reached to its judgement?
- What is the right of Adverse Possession?
Ayodhya Verdict: Explained
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- The final verdict has been delivered in Ayodhya dispute case by a five-judge Supreme Court Bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi. The judgement was unanimous.
What was the Ayodhya dispute?
- At the centre of the issue is the belief among sections of Hindus that the Babri Masjid, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built in Ayodhya after destroying a Ram Temple that marked the birthplace of the deity.
- The Hindu parties wanted the land to themselves, contending that Lord Ram was born at a spot on which later the central dome of the mosque was built. The Muslim parties, however, contended that the mosque was constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqi, a commander of Babur’s army, without demolishing any place of worship and since the land rights had not been transferred to any other party, the space was rightfully theirs.
- The Ayodhya issue revolves around the control of a site (Ayodhya, Allahabad) traditionally regarded among Hindus to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity RAMA and location of the BABRI MASJID at the same site.
- The demolition of the centuries-old Babri Masjid by a Hindu mob in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 sparked deadly religious riots around the country, killing about 2,000 people.
- The violence of 1992 was, however, not the first incident. The first communal violence related to the sites was recorded during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh (1853).
- After the Babri masjid demolition, a subsequent land title case was lodged in the Allahabad High Court regarding the issue. In the judgement, the 2.77 acres of disputed land was divided into three parts among Hindus, Muslims and Nirmohi Akahara. But the judgement was put to stay by SC in 2011.
- In August 2017, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Dipak Misra begins hearing the appeals. A majority judgment is pronounced declining the prayer.
- In January 2019, A Constitution Bench of five judges led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi resumes hearing the title appeals but suggests mediation first where mediation fails to draw a consensus.
- Finally, on November 9, 2019 the constitution Bench clears the way for constructing Ram Temple at the disputed site and provided 5 acres’ land to Muslims at a prominent place.
Key highlights of the judgement
- The Supreme Court gave the entire 2.77 acres disputed site to the Hindus.
- Possession of disputed 2.77-acre land will remain with Central government receiver.
- The Muslims will get alternate five acres of land either in the surplus 67 acres acquired in and around the disputed structure by the central government or any other “prominent” place (under article 142)
- A trust will be formed in 3 months to build a temple on the disputed land. The court held that the Nirmohi Akhara is not the shebait but will get to be a member of the Trust.
- The court accepted that a wrong had been done when the Babri Masjid was desecrated in 1949 through installation of idols and also held that the demolition of the mosque in 1992 was illegal.
The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.
- Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it”.
- This was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over an immovable property and involving private parties. Earlier its provision has been used generally in cases that involve human rights and environmental protection.
- This article was also invoked in the case of Nirmohi Akhara which will now be the member of the board formulating schemes for the construction of the temple. The SC stated that as Nirmohi Akahara had a historical presence at the disputed site and their role, the Akhara will be given appropriate role in the management of temple.
- The Constitution Bench that delivered the judgment in the Ayodhya case said that while Muslims never lost possession of the disputed land, they could not assert the right of adverse possession.
How the Supreme Court reached to its judgement?
- The Supreme Court relied in part on centuries-old travelogues, gazetteers and books to provide an account of the faith and belief that the Hindus placed in the Janmasthan.
- The European travelogues of Joseph Tieffenthaler, William Finch, and Montgomery Martin were referred.
- These travelogues were written before the building of the grill-brick wall in front of the mosque during British rule.
Joseph Tieffenthaler (1710-1785)
- Tieffenthaler was an 18th-century missionary who travelled in India for 27 years, and wrote his travelogue titled “Description Historique et Geographique De l’Inde”.
- He sailed to Goa from Portugal in 1743.
- In India, he was commissioned at the famous observatory of Sawai Jai Singh, the Raja of Jaipur, and was later attached at the Jesuit College in Agra which was built with the patronage of Akbar.
William Finch (died 1613)
- William Finch’s account has been recorded in the 1921 book ‘Early Travels in India (1583-1619)’ by the historiographer Sir William Foster. The book contains the narratives of seven travellers from England, including Finch.
- Finch is known to have arrived in India in 1608 at Surat with Sir William Hawkins, a representative of the East India Company.
- He did not mention any building of importance of Islamic origin.
Robert Montgomery Martin (1801-1868)
- Martin was an Anglo-Irish author and civil servant.
- Martin went on to work in Kolkata where helped found the paper ‘Bengal Herald’. He later returned to England where he wrote about the British Empire.
- Martin wrote the three-volume work ‘History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India’.
The Supreme Court accepts Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) findings
Accepting the ASI’s report, the Supreme Court states:
- The mosque was not constructed on vacant land. It observes, the pre-existing structure was large and Babri pillars prove a pre-existing structure. Pre-existing structure was not on Islamic and the artefacts collected show earlier structure was non-Islamic.
- Balance of probabilities suggest pre-existence of temple. But the ASI has refrained from saying temple was demolished. It only says material was used for constructing mosque.
- Both Hindus and Muslims cannot explain what the disputed land was used for from 12th to 16th century.
What is the right of Adverse Possession?
- Adverse possession is hostile possession of a property – which has to be continuous, uninterrupted and peaceful.
- The SC wanted to clarify that whether the Sunni Wakf Board had acquired the title of the disputed land by adverse possession.
- The Muslim side had claimed that by virtue of their long exclusive and continuous possession since time the mosque was built, they had perfected their title by adverse possession. It means they deserve the place.
- This argument has now been rejected by the Supreme Court.
- Justice D V Sharma had said that Muslims cannot claim adverse possession against the said property because it was an open place and everybody was visiting including Muslims.
- Long possession does not mean adverse possession and Muslims had no uninterrupted possession.
Reaction of Muslim community after the judgement
- The Muslim community responded with restraint and responsibility after losing its claim on the site.
- The chairman Zafar Ahmad Farooqui of Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, one of the main litigants in the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid case on Saturday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict and said it has no plans to challenge it.
- The Board had last month proposed withdrawing claim on the disputed land with some conditions in the national interest.
Reaction of Nirmohi Akahara after the judgement
- Despite the top court pronouncing against the Nirmohi Akhara’s claim that it is a shebait or devotee of the deity Ram Lalla, the Nirmohi Akhara remained grateful to the apex court for having “recognize its fight of 150 years.
In one of the most important and most anticipated judgements in India’s history this verdict put an end to the more than a century old dispute which became reason for violence and social unrest. Now the judgment has been accepted by all parties then there is the need to leave all the hatred and communal tensions behind and move towards a peaceful and organised society.