SC lets off 4 people at lower cost over 'frivolous' PIL on preserving Ayodhya Ram temple artefacts

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New Delhi, Nov 20 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday let off four petitioners, who were earlier slapped with a cost of Rs 4 lakh for filing 'wholly frivolous' PIL on preservation of artefacts and antiquities found at the Ram temple site at Ayodhya, after they deposited Rs 1 lakh.

The top court had on July 20 imposed cost of Rs 1 lakh each on the four petitioners for filing a petition saying they intended to reopen the issue which has been given a quietus by a five-judge Constitution bench by its judgement on November 9, 2019.

It had said that after long drawn litigation, digging of all trenches of the allotted area of site of Ram Temple is sought for and “this is nothing but a sheer attempt to reopen the issue to scuttle the judgment rendered by this Court on November 9, 2019. The petitions are absolutely bereft of merits and with frivolous prayers”.

On Friday, a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and B R Gavai was informed by senior advocate Menaka Guruswamy that the petitioners come from a very humble background and have realised their mistake.

She told the bench that the petitioners including Satish Chindhuji Shambharkar and others were ill advised to pursue the proceedings.

Guruswamy urged the court to show indulgence and compassion to the petitioners who have already deposited the amount of Rs 1 lakh instead of four lakh cost imposed on them.

“We accept this request made by the petitioners on condition that they should not indulge in such misadventure in future. The delay in depositing the amount of rupees one lakh only is condoned and that amount be treated as full and final costs paid by the petitioners in terms of order dated July 20, 2020,” the bench said.

On July 20, the top court had dismissed two writ petitions including one filed by Shambharkar and others and one another petition by Dr. Ambedkar Bodhi Kunja Foundation seeking digging of trenches at Ram Janambhoomi site in Ayodhya and preservation of artefacts under Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

The top court had said, “We find that the kind of prayer made in the petitions virtually tantamount to seeking reconsideration of the matter under the guise of grey areas, to do further digging of the entire site of various trenches which is nothing but a vain bid to get rid of the judgment of this Court and to start litigation de novo under the guise of the Act of 1958 and to preserve site and artefacts under the Act of 1958”.

The top court had said, “Thus, we find the petitions to be wholly frivolous, perverse and without merit. Such petitions ought not to be filed with the ulterior purpose of starting a litigation afresh, praying for the entire digging of various trenches”.

It had said that the petitioners’ intention that whatever monument at the Temple site and artefacts unearthed need preservation “is nothing but an attempt to dilute the judgment rendered by this Court”.

The top court while dismissing the two writ petitions with costs of Rs 1 lakh on each of the petitioners said that it be deposited with the Supreme Court Employees’ Mutual Welfare Fund within one month.

Shambharkar and others in their petition have said that on the site allotted for construction of the Ram temple, the work has begun as per the judgment rendered by this Court.

It had alleged that the site is protected one and owing to the ongoing digging work, the artefacts and monuments are under a grave fear of being damaged and destroyed at the site itself.

Another writ petition filed by Dr Ambedkar Bodhi Kunja Foundation had said that there are certain grey areas left in the final judgment dated November 9, 2019 of this Court in Ram Janambhoomi case which need to be clarified by this Court with respect to Act of 1958.

It had sought digging of some trenches out of 90trenches which were not excavated due to disputed situation prevalent at that time and whatever remains are recovered needs to be protected as national legacy.

On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court in a historic verdict backed the construction of a Ram temple by a trust at the disputed site in Ayodhya and ruled that an alternative five-acre plot must be found for a mosque in the Hindu holy town.

Delivering a unanimous judgement, a five-judge bench of the apex court headed by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the faith of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the site was undisputed, and he is symbolically the owner of the land. PTI MNL ABA SJK SA