The 1,045-page judgment of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya case is actually made up of two documents.
The first is the main 929-page judgment, a unanimous verdict by all five judges: CJI Ranjan Gogoi along with Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer.
The second document is an ‘Addendum’ to the main judgment by one of the judges, who has used it to record separate reasons on the following issue:
“Whether disputed structure is the holy birth place of Lord Ram as per the faith, belief and trust of the Hindus?”
It is not specified which judge has written this ‘Addendum’.
Faith & Belief: What the Addendum Says
The main judgment avoided going into this question, with the judges saying they wanted to focus on the title dispute itself. On page 908, the judges note that:
“Title cannot be established on the basis of faith and belief above. Faith and belief are indicators towards patterns of worship at the site on the basis of which claims of possession are asserted.”
As the main judgment views the entire disputed land as one composite whole, it does not consider it necessary to determine whether or not the Hindu faith considers the exact spot at which Lord Ram was born to be inside or outside the Babri Masjid structure itself.
The Addendum, however, examines the oral and documentary evidence presented before the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court and finds that:
“Faith and belief of the Hindus as depicted by the evidence on record clearly establish that the Hindus belief [sic] that at the birth place of Lord Ram, the Mosque was constructed and three-dome structure is the birth place of Lord Ram.”
It is pertinent to note that when the very first legal claims about the site were raised in 1885 by Mahant Raghubar Das, it appears that the site of the ‘Ram Chabutra’, a raised platform in the outer courtyard outside the mosque, was viewed as the birthplace of Lord Ram.
However, the Addendum says that the worship on the Ram Chabutra was symbolic, and not an indication that this was where Lord Ram was born.
To determine this, the judge who wrote it has referred to old Gazettes from the British era which repeat the story that the mosque was built on the site of a ‘Janamsthan temple’ as well as complaints by mosque officials to the authorities against Hindus praying inside the mosque and placing idols for the worship of Lord Ram there.
Witnesses examined in the Allahabad high Court of both faiths also spoke of how the Muslims termed the site the Babri Masjid while Hindus considered it the Ram Janmabhoomi.
Why Is This Controversial?
It is curious that the judge who wrote the Addendum felt there was a need to make a determination of this sort in the judgment at all. The main judgment and the question of title came down to who could best prove possession of the whole disputed site – faith and belief were not essential to this beyond a limited point.
“The fact that a belief and faith is held is however a matter which is distinct from the actual place where worship was offered,” it says at para 556 on page 658.
“The dispute is over immovable property,” it goes on to say, before clarifying that “The court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence.”
This raises questions over why this Addendum was then written – whether Lord Ram was born inside or outside what used to be a mosque till its destruction by kar sevaks in 1992 makes no difference whatsoever to the court’s resolution of the title dispute.
It does not even affect the construction of a Ram Temple by the Trust directed to be set up by the apex court. It only affects the debate outside of the legal sphere, which one would not think relevant for a court decision.
The other niggling question is why the judge who wrote this verdict wasn’t willing to put their name to it. This isn’t just about the fact that we don’t see the name of the judge who wrote it, it’s also the way in which this has been achieved.
Normally, if judges want to provide individual reasoning behind a particular issue, they write a ‘separate but concurring opinion’. However, this, like a regular judgment, needs to be signed by the judge who wrote it. The designation of this second document here as an Addendum means there is no signature required.