Decree on partition of land is strange, says Justice Lodha
The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Allahabad High Court verdict that directed division of 2.77 acres of land of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya into three parts among Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara.
A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha, admitting a batch of appeals from both Hindu and Muslim organisations, stayed the September 30, 2010 judgment of the Lucknow Bench of the High Court and directed the parties to maintain the status quo at the site.
Those who filed the appeals included the Sunni Central Wakf Board, U.P.; the Nirmohi Akhara; the All-India Hindu Mahasabha and Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman.
Senior counsel P.P. Rao, Anoop Chaudhary, Ravi Shankar Prasad, M.N. Krishnamani, Ranjit Kumar, K.N. Bhatt and C.S. Vaidyanathan appeared for various parties.
They unanimously urged the apex court to stay the High Court verdict and restore the status quo order passed by the Supreme Court in 1994 and March 2002 in respect of the activities on the 67.703 acres of government land acquired in January 1993.
This prompted Justice Alam to tell counsel: “At least on one issue, all of you are unanimous. The High Court has granted a new relief, which nobody has asked for it. The High Court has done something on its own. It has to be stayed.”
Justice Lodha told counsel: “The High Court's judgment is something strange. A new dimension has been given by the High Court as the decree of partition was not sought by the parties. It was not prayed for by anyone. It has to be stayed. It's a strange order. How can a decree for partition be passed when none of the parties had prayed for it? It's strange. Such kind of decrees cannot be allowed to be in operation. It is a difficult situation now. The position is that the High Court verdict has created a litany of litigation.”
The Bench said the status quo at the disputed site would remain as directed by the 1994 Constitution Bench and the order passed on March 13-14, 2002.
Except puja, no religious activity
The Bench, taking note of the 2002 order, directed that on the 67.703 acres located in various plots detailed in the Schedule to the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993, “which is vested in the Central government, no religious activity of any kind by anyone be permitted or allowed to take place.” The Bench, while directing the status quo to continue, made it clear that the existing “pujas” in the make-shift Ram Lala temple at the disputed site would go on as usual.
In its appeal, the Wakf Board assailed the High Court judgment. It contended that the suit was decided on the basis of belief/faith of a section of the Hindu community for which there was no admissible evidence. The court had wrongly held that a temple existed at the site in dispute before the construction of the Babri Masjid, while there was no evidence to prove the existence of any such temple or demolition thereof in or around 1528 AD.
It argued that the claims of Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara over the disputed site were mutually exclusive and could not be shared.
The All-India Hindu Mahasabha sought endorsement of the September 30, 2010 minority verdict by Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, who favoured handing over of the entire land to Hindus.
It said: “The judgment by Justice S. U. Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal should be set aside to the extent that one-third of the property in dispute has been declared in favour of Muslims and to allot the share to them.”