The Supreme Court had an extremely delicate task on its hands in delivering the anxiously awaited judgement in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in Ayodhya last Saturday which has been encouraging to both the majority Hindus as well the minority Muslim community. The people literally sitting on the edge heaved a sigh a relief with the apex court's verdict bringing a closure to this highly emotive issue.
The underlying message is not to hurt the susceptibilities of any community while taking note of the facts and evidence adduced before the five judge Constitution bench headed by the outgoing Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
In the prevailing circumstances, the judgement has been accepted largely by the younger members of the minority community impressing upon their disappointed elders that the court's decision must be seen as being as fair as possible after suffering inordinate delays.
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There has been wide acceptance of the verdict with the apex court laying emphasis on the importance of the rule of law.
Credit is due to the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for having fulfilled two of the three long pending demands of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideologue of the BJP. This pertained to the much awaited building of a grand Ram Temple at the pilgrim centre of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh and abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution according special status to Jammu and Kashmir, which has since been split into Union Territories, with Ladakh being the second one. The third aspect pertains to having a Uniform Civil Code which remains to be fulfilled.
With the need to maintain peace and harmony having been widely acknowledged among all religions, there could not have been a better verdict than this one. Even though there has been the inevitable but odd dissenting voice against the judgement, the judges have shown understanding in deciding this case.
The court had also taken due note of the findings of the Archeaological Survey of India that there was evidence of a temple like structure having existed there. At the same time it was widely believed that the Supreme Court should have taken this opportunity to put an end to other simmering disputes like Varanasi and Mathura.
Further, the court recognised the demolition of the mosque in 1882 as a crime and its closing for Muslim prayer since December 1949 as unjust. It is in this context the court directed the government to allot five acres of land in Ayodhya itself for building a mosque. A legal expert has observed that the judgement has been unprecedented in that a religious community of one billion waited for several centuries and then left the fate of one of their most sacred sites to the wisdom of the five judges.
Political failures apart, when a court brokers peace it does not necessarily mean closure to disputes. The ruling opens the door for claims based on community identity and faith. Then, there are others who wonder if this ruling of the Supreme Court can bring about a closure to further litigation in Ayodhya.
Muslims, by and large who had committed to accepting the court verdict, have a chance of claiming their place in contributing to the unity and integrity of the country. The apex court has facilitated through its judgement a moment of reconciliation for the Muslims.
There is reaffirmation of this country's secular character in the judgement. The direction of alloting land to the Sunni Waqf Board is a pointer to the gesture that proclaims that the court treats all citizens as equals. The court has reaffirmed that India is a secular society. Barely two months back in September, the Supreme Court frowned on the failure of governments to heed the Constitution in promulgating a Uniform Civil Code for the entire country. Citing the wish of the founding fathers, the apex court lamented no steps have been taken for framing the UCC despite its exhortations.
Inevitably, this judgement by the Supreme Court will be discussed in detail and dissected for long. The Apex Court has done well to impress the litigants and the nation the significance of reconciliation, closure and peaceful coexistence. What stands out is that the people have decided to move on as it was peaceful enough to do so. That is no small achievement.
The writer is a senior journalist and commentator.
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