New Delhi: In a unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court on Saturday ruled that the disputed 2.77 acre land in Ayodhya will be handed over to a trust formed by the central government for the construction of a Ram Temple.
The five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi ruled that Hindus will get land subject to certain conditions, and directed the Centre to allot an alternative 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a new mosque at either a "prominent" place in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh or in the 67 acres surrounding the disputed site that were acquired by the government in 1993. This, the top court said, was “restitution” for the unlawful destruction of the Babri Masjid.
While handing over the disputed site to the deity Ram Lalla, the court said that the trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site where many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born. The allotment of land for the construction of the mosque should happen simultaneously, the court said.
"The faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed," the court said in its 1,045-page verdict in the politically sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case that had torn the social fabric of the nation and dominated its polity.
The Babri Masjid, built in the 16th century, stood at the disputed site in Ayodhya till December 6, 1992, when it was destroyed by a Hindu mob. The demolition had triggered communal riots.
The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, said possession of the disputed 2.77 acre land rights will be handed over to the deity Ram Lalla, who was one of the three litigants in the case. The possession, however, will remain with a central government receiver.
“We are of the view that it would be necessary to direct the central government to set up a trust or any other appropriate mechanism to whom the land would be handed over,” the judgment said.
The scheme to be framed by the government, the court said, shall make necessary provisions in regard to the functioning of the trust or body, including on matters relating to the management of the trust, the powers of the trustees including the construction of a temple and all necessary, incidental and supplemental matters.
On the 67 acres of land surrounding the disputed site, the central government said it too can be handed over to the trust for management and development in terms of the scheme framed.
The court, however, held that the Nirmohi Akhara, which was granted one-third title by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, does not have a claim to title or even shebait or managerial rights. But it exercised its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to direct that the Akhara, an order Hindu ascetics, will also get representation in the land and members can be added to the trust formed.
The verdict was pronounced on 14 appeals 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.
"The verdict is very balanced and it is a victory of people," said C S Vaidyanathan, lawyer for deity 'Ram Lalla'. But, the Sunni Waqf Board, one of the main parties, said it was not satisfied and may seek a review.