Sixty years after the matter first went into litigation, a Special Full Bench of the High Court of Allahabad has ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood for 500 years until it was demolished in 1992 shall be divided into three parts. A two-thirds portion is to be shared by two Hindu plaintiffs and one-third will be given to the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board.

By a 2-1 majority verdict, plaintiffs representing Lord Ram, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Waqf Board were declared joint title-holders of the property. The Bench asserted that the portion under the central dome of the demolished three-dome structure where the idol of Ram Lalla had been kept in a makeshift temple was the birthplace of Lord Rama “as per faith and belief of the Hindus.”

The Bench of Justice S.U. Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice D.V. Sharma dismissed the suit filed by the Sunni Waqf Board for possession of the Babri Masjid because it was time-barred. It cited faith as the basis to declare the site the janmasthan of Lord Ram, but ordered a three-way partition on the basis of historical use of the site by Muslims and Hindus.

The Waqf Board said it would file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the judgment . Waqf Board counsel Zafaryab Jilani told a media conference here that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board would decide when to file it.

The Bench clarified that even though all the three parties are declared to have a one-third share each in the property, minor adjustments could be made — for which the adversely affected party would be compensated from the adjoining land acquired by the Central Government.

Dissenting judgment

Mr. Justice Sharma, however, did not agree with the one-third formula. According to him, the outer courtyard was in the exclusive possession of Hindus for worship, and in the inner courtyard (in the “disputed structure”) “they were also worshipping” and hence they had exclusive rights to the entire site.

In his dissenting judgment, Mr. Justice Sharma categorically stated that “the disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram.” He wrote: “Place of birth is a juristic person and is a deity. It is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as birthplace of Lord Rama as a child. Spirit of divine ever remains present everywhere at all times for anyone to invoke at any shape or form in accordance with his own aspirations and it can be shapeless and formless also.”

Mr. Justice Agarwal ruled that the “area covered under the central dome of the disputed structure is the birthplace of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of Hindus.”

Mr. Justice Khan did not rule categorically on this point. He merely noted that “for some decades before 1949 Hindus started treating/believing the place beneath the central dome of the mosque to be the exact birthplace of Lord Ram.” However, he ordered that the portion below the central dome “be allotted to Hindus in final decree.”

Mr. Justice Agarwal and Mr. Justice Sharma said the mosque was built after the demolition of a Hindu temple. Mr. Justice Khan disagreed, noting that “the mosque was constructed over the ruins of temples which were lying in utter ruins since a very long time before the construction of the mosque and some material thereof was used in the construction of the mosque.” However, both Mr. Justice Agarwal and Mr. Justice Khan agreed that the building that existed until 1992 was a mosque. But Mr. Justice Sharma disagreed: “The disputed building was constructed by Babar… against the tenets of Islam. Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque.”

Talking to reporters, Mr. Jilani described the judgment as “partly disappointing and against the settled principles of law and evidence adduced by the Muslim side.” He hoped that peace and tranquillity would prevail in the country and the issue would not be taken to the streets.

Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas president Mahant Nitya Gopal Das also said the Hindu side was expected to approach the Supreme Court.

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