The arguments in the high-profile case of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya concluded on Wednesday, 16 October, with the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court reserving its judgment.
The arguments lasted for 40 days, with the last day of hearings witnessing high drama when senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing the Muslim parties, tore up a pictorial map and other new documents submitted at the last minute by one of the Hindu parties – with the endorsement of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The five-judge bench, led by CJI Gogoi, has granted three days to the parties to file written notes on ‘moulding of relief’ or narrowing down the issues on which the court is required to adjudicate.
The other members of the bench are Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.
High Drama on Last Day
The last day of hearings in the apex court on Wednesday saw dramatic scenes as Rajeev Dhavan took strong objection to senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for a faction of All India Hindu Mahasabha, relying on the site map and books written by foreign and Indian authors to buttress claims that the central dome of the now-demolished structure was the birthplace of deity 'Ram Lalla'.
When he vigorously raised objections to this reliance on the pictorial map, which is also part of the book Ayodhya Revisited by former Bihar cadre IPS officer Kishore Kunal, Singh said he will not press for the pictorial map to be taken on record.
Dhavan then asked the Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi what he should do with it (map). The bench said that he can shred the documents into pieces.
Dhavan then tore the pictorial map, provided by the AIHM counsel, in the courtroom.
The protracted hearing in the Ayodhya dispute had entered the crucial final leg on 14 October when the apex court resumed proceedings on the 38th day after the week-long Dussehra break.
The five-judge bench, which started the day-to-day proceedings on 6 August after mediation proceedings failed to find an amicable solution, had revised the deadline for wrapping up the proceedings, bringing it a couple of days forward. In the morning on Wednesday, CJI Gogoi warned against any attempts to drag the proceedings on, saying “enough is enough”.
Fourteen appeals have been 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 judgment in the matter is to be pronounced by 17 November, the day CJI Gogoi is due to retire.
The judges will have to decide between competing claims to the title of the land from
- The Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu organisation which claims to have been responsible for the shebaitship and worship of the god Ram in Ayodhya. They took possession of much of the disputed land in 1934 and filed a suit for title in 1959.
- The Sunni Waqf Board, which claims the Babri Masjid and its adjacent land has been legally part of Waqf property since the Mughal era, as recognised in historical documents and British-era records. They filed a suit for title in 1961.
- Ram Lalla, represented through his “next best friend” – a person with ties to Hindu organisations like the VHP – who claims the land has belonged to him since antiquity. Ram Lalla was impleaded in the original cases filed by the other two parties.
A number of other individuals and religious organisations sought to intervene in the case over the years. While some of them were allowed to continue to be involved in the case, the five-judge bench restricted the issues to be adjudicated on to the title dispute and the claims by the three main parties.
The judges will have to decide if they want to take a similar decision as the Allahabad High Court and balance the competing claims, or decide that one of the broad claims is correct.
While legal arguments on limitation, adverse possession, etc would seem to be the basis for determining this, the parties also launched into long arguments on history, mythology, Hindu and Muslim personal law and more. It is unclear at this time what value the court will attach to these other arguments.
(With inputs from PTI.)