As voices for Ram Temple gain momentum, chances that an overburdened Supreme Court will speed up and start hearing a batch of appeals on Lord Ram’s exact birthplace in the volatile Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute looks rather slim.
The most pertinent problem the Supreme Court faces in the case is neither mythological nor legal. It is practical and time-consuming. The litigation has records dating back to the 16th Century and written in several languages, including Arabic and Persian. They all have to be translated into English for the court. The High Court judgment itself is 8,000 pages.
But the apex court is in no hurry. In a recent hearing this year, a bench led by Justice T.S. Thakur (now Chief Justice of India) said it would probably take another 10 years for the matter to come up.
“Someday or the other, the case (civil appeal) will be heard. Even after 10 or 15 years whenever matter comes up, one has to proceed in methodical manner. We don't have any policy (particular line of opinion) in the case," Justice Thakur had observed. The apex court has currently over 55,000 pending cases.
The appeals filed by the Sunni Waqf Board and other parties five years ago challenge the September 30, 2010 verdict of a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court that Hindus have the right to the makeshift temple under the central dome of the Babri Masjid. The Bench had relied on Hindu faith, belief and folklore to decide.
Justices Sudhir Agarwal and Justice D.V. Sharma on the High Court Bench had concluded in their separate judgments that Lord Ram, son of King Dashrath, was born within the 1,482.5 square yards of the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid premises over 900,000 years ago during the Treta Yuga. Justice Sharma added that the “world knows” where Ram's birthplace is.
The third judge, Justice S.U. Khan, said his finding was an “informed guess” based on “oral evidences of several Hindus and some Muslims” that the precise birthplace of Ram is under the central dome.
The appeals also question the High Court’s decision to order the partition of the disputed site equally among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla, on the hope that a decree for partition and separate possession of the land would prevent further litigation in the Ayodhya dispute.
In May 2011, during a preliminary hearing of the appeals, everything about the Allahabad High Court judgment left the Supreme Court puzzled.
The apex court bench of Justices (retired) Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha described the High Court judgment fixing Lord Ram’s birthplace as a sheer “leap of faith” transgressing into the mythological realm.
But the High Court Bench seemed to have anticipated such a reaction from the apex court, saying that just because there is no evidence to something does not mean that something does not exist. The Supreme Court would now have to decide how much of mythology it would accept as evidence on Lord Ram's birthplace.
The SC Bench had in 2011 also stayed the partition of disputed site while questioning the wisdom of the Lucknow Bench to go ahead and order it without anyone asking for it.
“The suits have been for declaration (of titles), possession or injunction. None of the parties had prayed for partition. This is surprising,” Justice Lodha had remarked in court that day.
The case Timeline
- › 1949: Idols of Ram Lalla are placed surreptitiously under the central dome.
- › 1950: Gopal Simla Visharad files first suit in Faizabad civil court for rights to perform pooja to Ram Lalla.
- › 1950: Paramahansa Ramachandra Das files a suit for continuation of pooja and keeping idols in the structure.
- › 1959: Nirmohi Akhara files third suit, seeking direction to hand over charge of the disputed site. U.P. Sunni Central Wakf Board files fourth suit in 1961 for declaration and possession and fifth in 1989 in the name of Ram Lalla Virajman for declaration and possession.
- › 1986: District judge orderes locks be removed. Site opened for Hindu worshippers.
- › 1989: The four suits pending were transferred to the High Court.
- › 1991: U.P. govt. acquires land around the structure for convenience of devotees who attend Ram Lalla darshan.
- › 1993: Govt. takes over 67 acres of land around the area, seeks SC's opinion on whether there existed a Hindu place of worship before the structure was built.
- › 1994: Case goes back to Lucknow Bench of HC, suits heard again from 1996.
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