On the fifth day of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case hearing before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, arguments on whether a temple existed at the disputed site in Ayodhya continued.
Appearing for Ram Lalla Virajman before a five-judge Constitution bench, senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan began his arguments by highlighting the significance of an idol and deity in Hinduism, adding that conferring a legal personality to the same began during British rule.
"Belief in the efficacy of a particular deity or place is what is crucial as regards to the existence of the temple. Hence, rivers, hills, like Kailash and Govardhan, are treated as places of worship. Places have thus been treated as deity irrespective of whether there is an idol or not," he said.
He also quoted the Allahabad High Court judgment to say that there is no evidence that from the 19th Century till 1949, Hindus were restricted from entering the inner courtyard, or that namaz was offered in the inner courtyard.
"Medieval travelogues by foreign travellers mention parikrama by Hindu devotees at the Ram Janmabhoomi. This indicates that the practice of worship in the outer courtyard continued. There is no proof that between 1856 and 1949, there was only a mosque. The evidence will show that between 1855 and 1934, there is no proof that namaz was actually offered in the mosque," he said.
He also quoted two prosecution witnesses who had given statements on how Hindus have been going on pilgrimage to Ayodhya for centuries.
While showing the Bench " comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer and CJI Ranjan Gogoi " drawings of the disputed site, setting out detailed plan of the temple before it was allegedly demolished, the advocate argued that destruction of the temple and construction of a mosque in its place does not deprive the deity and temple of the ownership of the place. Exclusive possession of the site by Muslims has not been proven, Vaidyanathan argued.
"Muslim side claims they have been in exclusive and continuous possession of the disputed site for 438 years. But the high court judgment has also found that Muslims did not have exclusive and continuous possession. There have been joint possession," he said.
The deity continues to be the owner of the site, despite the mosque's construction with the "ouster of possession of Hindus" yet to be established, he argued.
Detailing the concepts of abode of deity, property of deity and the place itself being the deity, Vaidyanathan said that the question of joint possession does not arise since the place is a deity in the case.
"It has been held by the Supreme Court and Privy Council that property of deity cannot be divided. The faith of the people in the sanctity of the place was not shaken merely on the ground that a mosque was built there," the advocate responded to Justice Chandrachud's rebuttal that the opposing view is that a place of worship "creates some rights".
Justice Bobde questioned if the argument is that the place continues to be a deity by virtue of the ruins of a temple that once existed at the site. To that, Vaidyanath, citing a Carnegie report which said that Ayodhya is to Hindus what Mecca is to Muslims, said, "The structure may have been ruined but the faithful devotees remained."
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim party, objecting to the "hop, skip and jump" way of argument, adds that no evidence has been placed on record yet. The court was later adjourned for the day.
The Supreme Court had asked Friday whether anyone from the 'Raghuvansha' (descendants of Lord Ram) dynasty still resides in Ayodhya. "We are just wondering if anyone from the 'Raghuvansha' dynasty is still living there (at Ayodhya)," the bench had said.
Supreme Court had commenced on Monday (fourth day) with arguments being made on behalf of the Nirmohi Akhara. Submissions were also made on behalf of the deity Ram Lalla.
Earlier, the bench had asked the counsel for the deity as to how the birthplace of Lord Ram can be regarded as a "juristic person" having stakes as a litigant in the case.
It had said that so far as Hindu deities are concerned, they have been legally treated as a juristic person, which can hold properties and institute, defend and intervene in lawsuits. However, it had asked as to how 'Janamsthanam' can file the case in the land dispute as a party.
Senior advocate K Parasaran (appearing for Ram Lalla), had Monday responded to the apex court's query, saying, 'The idol is not necessary in Hinduism for a place to be regarded as a temple," he had said, adding that "Hindus do not worship Gods in any definite form, rather they worship them as divine incarnation having no form."
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the top 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.
The Ayodhya case was referred to a Constitution Bench on 9 January this year. Earlier, a three-judge Bench had declined to refer the matter to a larger Bench.
In March this year, the Bench referred the Ayodhya dispute to a mediation panel comprising of former Supreme Court judge FMI Kalifulla, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. However, after the mediation route failed to deliver any result, the Court last week passed an order intimating that it would hear the case.
On 6 December, 1992, the Babri Masjid, which was constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.