Manmohan confers with Cabinet colleagues on how to handle any fallout

With the Allahabad High Court judgment in the 60-year-old original title suit of the Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi case expected in the second half of September, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a high-level meeting with Cabinet colleagues Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony and P. Chidambaram on Tuesday to discuss how to deal with any fallout.

National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and the Director of the Intelligence Bureau were also called in, as the immediate provocation for the meeting was a request by the Uttar Pradesh government for additional security forces to tackle a possible law and order situation that may arise after the verdict. Sources said the State government had sought an additional 4,500 paramilitary personnel from the Centre. The UP government, on its part, is identifying “sensitive” and “hyper sensitive areas” in the State.

The three-member Special Bench of the Allahabad High Court, consisting of Justices S.U. Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and D.V. Sharma, concluded their hearings on the title suit case on July 26, but the verdict has been reserved and is likely to be delivered any day before October 1, when Justice D.V. Sharma retires, it is learnt.

Last year, too, the hearings had been completed but before the verdict could be delivered one of the judges, Justice SR Alam, was transferred out and elevated as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. As a result, the hearings had to be restarted and they concluded last month.

The four title suits, on which the hearings have been completed, were filed by Gopal Singh Visharad (1950), the Nirmohi Akhara (1959), the UP Sunni Central Wakf Board (1961) and a group of Hindus (1989). All four suits were initially heard in the Faizabad civil court till a Special Bench was constituted in July 1989 by the Allahabad High Court, acting on the plea of the then UP government for speedy trial of the case.

In the run-up to the verdict, there has been nervousness on both sides. While the Muslims have been silent, in July this year, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) held a three-day meeting in Ayodhya, after a gap of 18 years, and passed a resolution saying that the mosque “has to be off the ‘Shastriya Seema' of Ayodhya as described in the Ram Charitmanas,” which means that any proposed replica of the 16th century Babri Masjid can be built only outside the town limit.

Regardless which way the verdict goes, there will be a political fallout, even though the party that loses the title suit case can go in appeal to the Supreme Court. The fortunes of the four major parties in the State – the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party – depend on how they handle it.

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