Ayodhya Case: Hindu Party Seeks Control of Entire Land in SC

Muslims have not been allowed to enter the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure in Ayodhya since 1934, a Hindu group told the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 6 August, and sought the control and management of the entire 2.77 acre land which is under dispute.

Nirmohi Akhara, one of the parties to the case, said while advancing the arguments that the structure has been in its exclusive possession.

The day-to-day hearing in the case commenced on Tuesday after the efforts to arrive at an amicable settlement through mediation failed.

Also Read: Ayodhya Mediation Fails, SC to Conduct Hearings From 6 August

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi was told by senior advocate Sushil Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akhara, that it was seeking management and possession of the area.

The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, began the day-to-day hearing by rejecting the plea of former RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya seeking recording of the Ayodhya case proceedings.

The Akhara counsel told the apex court that their suit was basically for belongings, possession and management rights.

"I am a registered body. My suit is basically for belongings, possession and management rights," said the Akhara counsel.

He also told the court that the Akhara was in possession of the inner courtyard and Ram Janmasthan for hundreds of years.

“We were in possession of inner courtyard and Ram Janmasthan for hundreds of years. Outer courtyard having ‘Sita Rasoi’, ‘Chabutra’, ‘Bhandar Grah’ were in our possession and it was never a part of dispute in any case,” the senior counsel told the bench.

The ongoing hearing also witnessed a heated exchange of words between the bench and senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is appearing for a Muslim party.

While the bench was asking the counsel for Nirmohi Akhara to confine his arguments to civil dispute and asking him to skip reading some written statements, Dhavan interfered and said perhaps there would not be any curtailment of arguments.

The CJI replied that there should not be any doubt in anybody's mind that the hearing or the arguments would be curtailed in any manner.

Dhavan did not stop and again said that is what he was saying and made some statement.

At this, the CJI said, "Dr Dhavan, keep the dignity of the court." Dhavan said that he had replied to some questions only.

The bench told him, "Please keep in mind that you are officer of the Court and all we are saying that we are not going to curtail anybody's arguments".

The counsel representing Nirmohi Akhara claimed right over disputed 2.77 acre Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid land and said they have been possessing, managing and worshipping Lord Ram Lalla since time immemorial at the site.

"In any case, you have been given one-third of disputed area in preliminary decree by the High Court," the bench told the Nirmohi Akhara's counsel.

The counsel for Nirmohi Akhara referred to the Allahabad High Court findings on the issues framed in the land dispute.

"Before 1934, Muslims were offering regular prayers, High court had noted in the verdict," the bench observed.

The counsel for Nirmohi Akhara quoted the high court verdict and said that since 1934 to 1949, Muslims were offering Friday prayers at the disputed structure.

Citing another evidence, the counsel said that absence of provision for 'wuzu', by which Muslims wash hands and body parts before Namaz, at disputed site was interpreted by the high court to arrive at the conclusion that prayers were not being offered there since long and thus it had ceased to be a mosque.

The hearing in the case would continue in the afternoon.

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 the three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

On 6 December, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.

Case Background

The top court had on 18 July, asked the mediation panel to inform the court about the outcome of their proceedings as on 31 July.

The mediation panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, had said in its report submitted on Thursday that the Hindu and the Muslim parties have not been able to find a solution to the dispute.

The apex court, which on 8 March referred the matter for mediation, had asked for in-camera proceedings to be completed within eight weeks, but later granted time till 15 August after the panel's earlier report said that the mediators were “optimistic” about an amicable solution.

After the bench on 2 August passed the order, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a Muslim party had raised several technical issues and said he will need 20 days to argue the various issues arising in the matter in detail and there should not be any curtailment on the hearing.

While he was raising different aspects of the matter and how the appeals have to be heard, the bench had told him “don't remind us what we have to do”.

Dhavan also raised the issue of pending writ petition filed by senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and the application filed by a Muslim body.

The court which had perused a report about the progress of mediation process till 18 July, had said that its contents will remain confidential as per its earlier order.

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 the three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

On 6 December 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.

The central government on 29 January this year moved the apex court seeking its nod to return the 67-acre undisputed acquired land around the disputed site to original owners.

The 0.313 acre plot, on which the disputed structure stood before it was demolished by ‘kar sevaks’ on 6 December 1992, was within the 2.77-acre disputed premises, the plea said.

The government had then acquired 67.703 acres, including the 2.77-acre plot, through a legislation in 1993. The Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN) is the owner of as much as 42 acres of the acquired non-disputed land.

The Centre's plea said that the RJN (a trust to promote construction of Ram Temple) had also sought return of excess land acquired to original owners.

A week later, another petition was filed challenging the constitutional validity of 1993 Central law on land acquisition in Ayodhya near the disputed site, contending that Parliament has no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to the state.

Seven individuals, including two Lucknow-based lawyers claiming to be devotees of Ram Lalla, said state legislature has exclusive power to make provisions on management of religious affairs inside its territory.

The plea said the Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993 Act infringes right to religion of Hindus guaranteed and protected by Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

Also Read: VHP wants SC to set deadline for verdict on Ayodhya dispute

(With inputs from ANI and PTI)

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