The former Chief Justice of India, A.M. Ahmadi, on Saturday expressed the opinion that the Supreme Court could have acted to prevent the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Mr. Ahmadi said this at a seminar, “Ayodhya Judgment: Civil Society Response,” organised by the Institute of Objective Studies. He pointed out that the then Attorney-General, Milon Banerjee, had repeatedly urged the two-judge Bench of Justices M.N. Venkatachaliah and G.N. Ray to consider appointing the Central government as the receiver of the land where kar seva was to be performed to foreclose the possibility of demolition. Mr. Banerjee told the court he had definite information that the mosque was about to be demolished. “Instead, the court passed an order allowing a symbolic kar seva. Had that order not been passed, the mosque would have been standing today,” Mr. Ahmadi said. He also faulted the court for handing out a “one-day simple imprisonment” to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh.
Mr. Ahmadi was part of the five-judge Bench that heard the one-line presidential reference on Ayodhya. The question was whether a Hindu temple or any other structure pre-existed at the site where the mosque stood. Recalling the reference, Mr. Ahmadi said: “We were sure that we did not want to exhume old issues.”
Mr. Ahmadi said he was “taken aback” by the Allahabad High Court judgment on the Ayodhya title suits. “I doubt if this can even be called a judgment.” He said the judgment had to be contested because at stake were “the ethos of rule of law, the democratic system and the Constitution itself.”
Participants at the seminar made three common points. The judgment should be contested, not on grounds of Hindu faith versus Muslim faith, but on points of law, secularism and constitutional principles. Secondly, the memo of appeal before the Supreme Court should be “drawn up by competent hands” and informed by “cohesion and consistency.” Thirdly, while a settlement was possible at a later date, there could not be any diversion from the immediate task of filing an appeal.
The former Advocate-General of Uttar Pradesh, S.M.A Qazmi, said the Muslim side ought to examine its own shortcomings in pleadings and adducing evidence in the High Court and cure the defects with “unity of purpose” and dedication. “We have to put our heads together and bring complete cohesion in the preparation of the case.”
All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat president Syed Shahabuddin said it was open for any court to examine issues of faith if the conflict arose within the same religious community. However, when two faiths were involved, the decision had be grounded in constitutional law. “Neither the dharma shastra nor the Koran is valid in this case.”
Member-Secretary of the Sachar Commission Abusaleh Shariff was worried that the High Court verdict could become the new benchmark in deciding cases. He also asked the speakers to examine the impact of the judgment on the “future of the Muslim psyche.”