- Himanshu Tyagi
The Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court on 9th November 2019 unanimously delivered the long-awaited historic judgment.[i] The century-old dispute came to a rest when the Apex Court set aside the Allahabad High Court’s verdict[ii] and bestowed the “rightful owner” of the disputed 2.77 acre land to Shri Ram Lalla Virajman. Additionally, the Court allocated 5-acre land at a “prominent site” to the Sunni Waqf Board for a mosque while exercising its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution which “ensure(s) that a wrong committed must be remedied”.
The Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising of Justice S.A Bobde, D.Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer concurringly delivered the judgment in favour of the Hindu Respondents. It held that since the Hindu Respondents have been in exclusive and unimpeded possession of the outer courtyard, where they have continued their worship, they are the legal proprietors. Moreover, the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed the plea of the Appellants as they failed to prove the exclusive possession of the inner courtyard.Also, the significant findings by the Archaeological Survey of India in its 2003 Report were able to conclusively convince the Bench that the Mosque was built over a non-Islamic structure and not on the unadorned land as claimed by the Appellants.
Further, while constituting a Trust to build the Ram Temple on the disputed site, the Apex Court condemned the acts of placing the idol in the inner courtyard of the mosque on the night of 22nd December 1949 and the demolition of the Babri Mosque on 6th December 1992. The judgment labelled these acts as “illegal”, “criminal” and “against the law of the land”. The Bench held that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 was passed to “preserve the religious character of every place of worship as it existed on 15 August 1947.” However the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute was specifically exempted as it was pending before the Court for adjudication.
Furthermore, the Bench reiterated[iii] that the idol of Lord Ram is a juristic person by all means and can enforce its property rights through its shebait. Italso made a clear distinction between ‘occupation’ and ‘possession’ while holding that “mere possession of the land would not ripen into the possessory title. The possessor must have animus possidendi and hold the land adverse to the title of the true owner”.
Despite giving a well-versed reasoning, the judgment can be frowned upon on certain issues.
- If the event of forceful encroachment of the sanctum sanctorum by the deity in 1949 is illegal, how could the deity be held as a rightful owner of the same?
- While assertively claiming that the judgment will only address the legal questions as “the Constitution does not make a distinction between faith/ belief of one religion and another”, then why does it pari passu assert in its reasoning the “undisputed belief and faith in Lord Ram”.
- Despite the Hindu Respondents only having possession of the outer courtyard and a proclaimed right to worship, why was the entire burden to prove the exclusive possession placed on Muslim Petitioners?
- another question which arose in the admissibility of this judgment is that should litigants accept an unsigned verdict? It is a fact that no court of law in India accepts a shred of unsigned evidence or affidavit and therefore why should the Litigants in this case oblige?
All these questions and a plethora of several more remained unanswered even after the Review Petition was dismissed. It is true that no one other than Apex Court has to answer these queries sooner or later.
Moreover, the author of the 1045 page judgment still remains a mystery, as the Supreme Court decided to keep the identity of the Judge hidden. This is highly unusual and in a departure from convention. The judgment also came with an addendum which summarised the findings of the Court but who penned it, is still a question mark. However, one can easily adduce through the writing technique and the uses of specific fonts that the judgment was penned by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and the author of addendum was Justice Ashok Bhushan.
- A large section of the society has accepted the judgment with open arms, as they will get to witness their lifelong dream of “Bhavya Ram Mandir”. But,the aggrieved party has termed this judgment as “solomonic” in which “faith has won over the facts”.
The Apex Court has done its job by
conclusively deciding the matter and not leaving room for any future disputes.
Now it is our duty “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood
amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional
or sectional diversities”.[iv]
[i] M. Siddiq (D) thr. L.Rs. v. Mahant Suresh Das and Ors. 2019 (6) ALLMR 482, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1440
[ii] Gopal Singh Visharad & Ors. v. Zahoor Ahmad & Ors. 2010 SCC OnLine 1935.
[iii] Vidya Varuthi Thirtha v. Balusami Ayyar (1922) 24 BOMLR 629.
[iv] Article 51-A(e), The Constitution of India, 1950