Ayodhya hearing concludes: SC reserves judgment after 40 days; closed door meeting likely today on mediation panel report

FP Staff

Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved the judgment in the Ayodhya land dispute case, concluding the 40-day-long marathon hearing. A written note is to be submitted in the next three days. Supreme Court has finished hearing all arguments in the Ayodhya case one hour before the set deadline. According to latest reports, the Supreme Court bench hearing the case will sit in chambers tomorrow and a closed door proceeding is likely on the cards to discuss the mediation panel report. News18 reports the bench will take a call on the way forward in the case.

Questioning the Hindu parties' claim, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is appearing for the Muslim side, said, how can the Hindu side make claims from an illegal act, since they are relying upon all illegal acts, including 1855. He said that the Hindu side relies upon statements made by people in year 2000. "Even if we assume that you had title, what do we say? That then over time we have title by adverse possession," he says.

In response to the claim that Waqf Board has no right since there was no Mutawalli, Dhavan submits that Uttar Pradesh Muslim Waqfs Act is the operative act and it stated that the board has the right to take steps to get back the Waqf's properties. Reading parts of a document relied upon in Suit 4 which has been objected to by CS Vaidyanathan claiming that there is contradiction in translation, Dhavan said that what Jilani had placed before Allahabad High Court was a transliteration from Persian introduced by Justice Agarwal.

He further argues that Mishra's arguments are not based on knowledge of land revenue, to which Mishra interjects saying his books on land revenue have been used as references for PhDs.

Dhavan questions how can the Hindu side make claims from an illegal act, since they are relying upon all illegal acts, including 1855. He said that the Hindu side relies upon statements made by people in year 2000. "Even if we assume that you had title, what do we say? That then over time we have title by adverse possession," he says.

Mentioning that the Sultanate was established in 1200s, Dhavan says that Babur was a conquered and that when Islam came to India, it was a very attractive religion in terms of equality. "My plea is not a plea of title alone. It is of Waqf. My plea is not adverse possession, it is an alternative plea," Dhavan says.


Addressing the submission by Ranjit Kumar that Gopal Singh Visharad's legal heirs were not substituted in Suit 4, Dhavan submits that there was no such obligation. He submits that the son of a litigant cannot claim to have succession in a suit filed for rights of worship.

Referring to the 1992 demolition of the mosque, Dhavan submits, "The building that was destroyed was of Muslims. The right of its reconstruction, its restoration can only be with the Muslims."

He ends his submissions with "Saare jahan se acha hindustan humara, hum bulbule hain iski, ye gulsitan humara. Hindi hain hum, watan hai hindustan humara. This is the spirit of our Constitution, my lords."

Dhavan, who tore up submissions made by Hindu Mahasabha lawyer on the last day of Ayodhya case hearing, remained unapologetic and claimed he shredded those papers with the permission of Chief Justice of India. "The CJI said I could shred the papers and I just followed the order. I take the advice of Mr (Arvind) Datar in such matters, and he told me it was a mandamus," Dhavan said.

Dhavan was actually referring to CJI's remark, possibly intended sarcastically, where he asked Dhavan to go on and tear up more papers and Dhavan had persisted.

Tempers ran high in the Chief Justice's court on Wednesday as all sides in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case were under pressure to conclude their arguments by 5 pm. Dhavan lost his cool in the apex court as lawyer Vikas Singh, representing Hindu Mahasabha, sought to place an alleged historic map of the Ram Janmabhoomi site before the Constitution Bench. Singh cited an Oxford University publication, Ayodhya Revisited, by former IPS officer Kishore Kunal, to prove pre-existence of the Ram Temple. However, Dhavan loudly interjected at this point and reportedly tore up the document stating that no new evidence can be admitted in court at such an advanced stage of the suit.

The unsavoury developments upset Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi also, who objected to the courtroom decorum being disturbed. However, the atmosphere in the courtroom lightened after CJI asked Singh if he can keep the book to which advocate replied in the affirmative. "I will start reading it now and will keep reading it in November and after that...will you also sign it for me?," Gogoi said.

Gogoi had earlier taken a decisive view in the ongoing hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute case and said that the Supreme Court will finish hearing the matter today by 5 pm. Gogoi, visibly irked by the lawyer of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who approached the bench with an urgent intervention, said, "Enough is enough. There is no more time for any intervention. All parties must finish their arguments by 5 pm today," adding that nobody apart from the recognised parties in the case will be allowed to speak in the court today.

Gogoi's comments came amid some confusion resulting from media reports that the Sunni Waqf Board was planning to withdraw its claim from India's oldest title suit. However, later reports clarified that the waqf board (which is just one of the Muslim litigant in the case), has not yet made any such appeal to the bench.

The CBI angle

The Sunni Waqf Board's second thoughts on the long-contested claim to the disputed site come as a surprise at the last moment, given that several attempts at mediation have already failed.

However, media reports speculate that the sudden twist could be a result of pressure from the BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government, a party which has promising construction of Ram Temple at the disputed site in its manifesto.

Just days before the final hearing, reports surfaced that the Uttar Pradesh government has recommended a CBI inquiry into the 'irregular' sale, purchase and transfer of Waqf land in the state. In this regard, the Sunni Waqf Board chairman Zufar Faruqui was also due to be investigated.

Hindu side's submission

What complicates the matters from the Hindu side is the contesting claims by various religious bodies. Even if we go into only the primary respondents in the more the 14 petitions being combinedly heard in the Supreme Court, there are three contrasting claims.

Nirmohi Akhara, set up by Sant Ramanand in the 14th century, claims that they hold shebait rights on the land and the deity because they have been responsible for worship and day to day care of the deity for seven centuries.

Contradicting there claim is the Ram Lalla deity and the janmabhoomi which have been made juristic entity in the case. They became a legal party in the case when former Allahabad High Court judge Deoki Nandan Agrawal moved the high court as "next friend" of Lord Ram.

Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan appearing for Ram Lalla making his arguments, said that Muslim parties have not been able to prove complete ouster of Hindus from the site, or even exclusive possession of the land.  Vaidyanathan concludes his rejoinder arguments. Another lawyer, representing Ram Lalla, Ranjit Kumar said that Hindus have pre-existing right to pray at the site.

Vikas Singh appearing for Hindu Mahasabha said, "The original place we are dealing with was the Ram Janmasthaan. In spite of the conversion of the site, Hindus continued to uninterruptedly offer prayers there."


Confusion prevails amid conflicting media reports on last day of hearing

Chairman of the Sunni Waqf Board has proposed before the Ayodhya mediation panel €" which had earlier failed to build a consensus among various contesting parties €" that it is ready to give up their claim on their land, if certain conditions are met, CNN-News18 reported. Among some of the demands highlighted in its proposal, the Sunni Waqf Board reportedly asked for places of Religious Worship Act 1991 be made watertight. The news channel reported that the Waqf board has also proposed that the government should take over the maintenance of around 22 mosques in Ayodhya. Additionally, the Muslim body also wants that a Supreme Court-monitored committee should be formed to look into the status of other religious places, which are under the Archaeological Survey of India's (ASI) control.

However, Aaj Tak, reported that no such appeal has been made to the Constitution Bench, which has been hearing the matter for 40 days now. Even if the board decides to withdraw its claim, it will need to have apex court's permission to do so.

However, notwithstanding the fate of the Sunni Waqf Board's claim on the land, the Ayodhya case is expected to progress as is because the waqf board is only one of the eight litigants (both Hindus and Muslims) embroiled in the case.

Furthermore, as SQR Ilyasi, a Muslim cleric and member of the Waqf board told CNN-News18, the Waqf board is merely a representative body standing for each and every namazi (praying Muslim) that follows the Islam faith in India. Ilyasi claimed that in legal terms too, the body does not have the hegemony of one individual and is rather represented by a board. He said no consensus was sought on the issue, and hence, the chairman of the body alone is not entitled to beseech claim of millions of Muslims in the country.  "Waqf Board is under pressure from the UP government," Ilyas alleged.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has been hearing the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit for 39 days and had earlier set the deadline to finish arguments on 18 October. The Ayodhya case is being heard by a Constitution Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer.

This was later brought forward to 17 October, but the CJI on Tuesday indicated that it would like to conclude all arguments by Wednesday instead of Thursday. The court is running a tight deadline to finish hearing the came, and to come up with judgment because the current CJI, also the head of the Constitution Bench, retires on 17 November. If the court fails to deliver a judgment before then, the entire matter will have to be heard afresh in front of a new judge as decided by the next Chief Justice of India.

The hearing in the case took place even as Section 144 of the CrPC, banning the assembly of four or more people, has been imposed in Ayodhya district and surrounding areas in Uttar Pradesh till 10 December, in anticipation of the judgment in the case.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

The Ayodhya hearing is the second longest in the history of the Supreme court after the landmark hearing in Keshavananda Bharati case which lasted for 68 days.

Also See: Ayodhya hearing: Lawyer Rajeev Dhavan marred his performance in Supreme Court with his needless Arnab Goswami act

Abhishek Manu Singhvi says verdict from SC ‘best solution’ to Ayodhya debate after five-judge Constitution Bench reserves judgment

Ayodhya hearing in Supreme Court: 'Only we were asked questions, not Hindu parties'; Muslim side tells Supreme Court

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