The Supreme Court on Saturday gave a historic verdict in the decades-old Ayodhya's Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, granting the ownership of the 2.77 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya to the Hindus, thereby, paving the way for the construction of a Ram Temple. The apex court also ruled that the Muslims will get 5 acres of land at an alternative site. The verdict comes nine years after the Allahabad High Court had ordered that the disputed land be equally divided between the three parties — Ram Lalla, Sunni Waqf Board, and the Nirmohi Akhara.
A five-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi gave a unanimous verdict, closing the longest-drawn controversy in the country`s history. Here are the key observations of the SC verdict:
1. The Supreme Court court ruled that Hindus will get the disputed land subject to conditions. The 2.77-acre complex will be handed over to the trust, which has to be formed within three months. The management of of the temple construction will be monitored by the trust. The Centre must appoint a board of trustees within three months.
2. The apex court said that Muslims will get alternative land of 5 acres for the construction of a mosque, ruling out that Muslims couldn`t prove exclusive possession of the inner courtyard, which was in contention, while the outer courtyard was in exclusive possession of the Hindus.
3. It also held that the Allahabad High Court was wrong to divide the land between the three main parties -- Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board -- as the complex was a composite whole.
4. Under Article 142, the SC directed, in the scheme to be framed, Nirmohi Akhara, an order of ascetics, will also get representation. The Akhara`s suit, one of the main parties in the case, was dismissed as the bench held that it was barred by limitation. The SC also rejected that Nirmohi Akhara is a shebait (manager) of the complex. "Land to remain vested in statutory receiver till trust is formed," ruled the court.
5. The Supreme Court said that the 2003 Archaeology Survey of India`s (ASI) report can`t be dismissed as conjecture or just a guess work and junked the theory of pre-existence of an Idgah at the disputed site. "Babri mosque wasn`t constructed on a vacant land. An underlying structure did exist," it said.
6. The apex court also said that the underlying structure was not of Islamic religion. Artefacts, architectural evidence had distinct non-Islamic nature, said CJI Gogoi. At the same time, the top court also said, "But ASI report hasn`t said the underlying structure was a specific temple."
7. Hindus consider Ayodhya as the birthplace of Lord Ram. "Faith of Hindus is undisputed that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya," ruled the court, it said, adding that faith is a matter of individual belief.
8. The facts, evidence and oral arguments of the present case have traversed the realms of history, archaeology, religion and the law. The law must stand apart from political contestations over history, ideology and religion. For a case replete with references to archaeological foundations, we must remember that it is the law which provides the edifice upon which our multicultural society rests. The law forms the ground upon which, multiple strands of history, ideology and religion can compete. By determining their limits, this Court as the final arbiter must preserve the sense of balance that the beliefs of one citizen do not interfere with or dominate the freedoms and beliefs of another.
9. On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it.
10. As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century. After the setting up of the grill-brick wall, the structure of the mosque continued to exist and there is evidence to indicate that namaz was offered within its precincts. The report of the Waqf Inspector of December 1949 indicates that Muslims were being obstructed in free and unimpeded access to mosque for the purposes of offering namaz. However, there is evidence to show that namaz was offered in the structure of the mosque and the last Friday namaz was on 16 December 1949.
11. During the pendency of the suits, the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship. The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago.
12. The three-way bifurcation by the High Court was legally unsustainable. Even as a matter of maintaining public peace and tranquillity, the solution which commended itself to the High Court is not feasible. The disputed site admeasures all of 1500 square yards. Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity.
13. Section 6 of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993 empowers the Central Government to direct that the right, title and interest in relation to the area or any part thereof, instead of continuing to vest in the Central Government shall vest in the authority or body or trustees of any trust which is willing to comply with the terms and conditions as government may impose. Section 7(1) provides that the property vested in the Central Government under Section 3, shall be maintained by the government or by any person or trustees of any trust, authorities in this behalf.
14. The Central government shall, within a period of three months from the date of this judgment, formulate a scheme pursuant to the powers vested in it under Sections 6 and 7 of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act 1993. The scheme shall envisage the setting up of a trust with a Board of Trustees or any other appropriate body under Section 6. The scheme to be framed by the Central Government 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.
15. Possession of the inner and outer courtyards shall be handed over to the Board of Trustees of the Trust or to the body so constituted. The Central Government will be at liberty to make suitable provisions in respect of the rest of the acquired land by handing it over to the Trust or body for management and development in terms of the scheme framed in accordance with the above directions.
16. The Sunni Central Waqf Board would be at liberty, on the allotment of the land to take all necessary steps for the construction of a mosque on the land so allotted together with other associated facilities.