Ayodhya verdict: decoding Allahabad HC's nine-year-old majority judgment under challenge in SC

The suit filed by the Ayodhya deity, Sri Bhagwan Ram Virajman, goes a step ahead to seek the construction of a temple on the land and the declaration of the infant deity and Ram Janam Asthan as juridical persons with untrammeled rights over the property

Updated - November 09, 2019 10:01 am IST

Published - November 09, 2019 08:09 am IST

A general view of Ayodhya.

A general view of Ayodhya.

The Supreme Court on Saturday will pass its verdict on the appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim parties against the majority 2:1 judgment of the Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010 in the suits filed for declaration of title and possession of the disputed 2.77-acre Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land in Ayodhya.

The suit filed by the Ayodhya deity, Sri Bhagwan Ram Virajman, goes a step ahead to seek the construction of a temple on the land and the declaration of the infant deity and Ram Janam Asthan as juridical persons with untrammeled rights over the property.

It is important to decipher the final conclusions of the high court and individual findings of each of the three judges on the Bench – Justices S.U. Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and D.V. Sharma – to understand the issues at stake before the apex court in the nearly century-old dispute which has transgressed cultures, religions and faith of the people, namely the Hindu and Muslim communities.

Nine years ago, the high court had concluded that both Hindus and Muslims were joint title holders of the disputed property. It divided the property among the Hindus, Muslims and a religious sect called the Nirmohi Akhara, which claimed that it had been managing the worship at the site for time immemorial. The court had declared that Muslims should not receive a share less than one-third of the disputed premises.

Conclusions of the High Court

The central dome of the disputed building, Babri Masjid, which was demolished by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992, is the exact birthplace of Lord Ram “as per faith and belief of the Hindus”.

The area within the inner courtyard belong to members of both the communities, i.e., Hindus and Muslims as they have used it "since decades and centuries".

The area covered by the structures, namely, Ram Chabutra, Sita Rasoi and Bhandar in the outer courtyard belongs to Nirmohi Akhara.

The open area within the outer courtyard shall be shared by Nirmohi Akhara and the deity, "since it has been generally used by the Hindu people for worship at both places".

In case of grievances while partitioning the property, minor adjustments can be made to compensate the affected party from the land acquired by the Centre under the Ayodhya Act of 1993.

The acquired land should be made available to Hindus and Muslims for enjoyment of their shares in the disputed property and for separate entry for egress and ingress of the people without disturbing each others' rights.

The parties may approach the Officer on Special Duty, Ayodhya Bench at Lucknow or the Registrar, Lucknow Bench, Lucknow, for formal partition of the disputed premises, but they should maintain status quo for three months from the date of the high court judgment.

Justices Khan, Agarwal and Sharma separately answered the several issues raised in the various suits, including whether the disputed structure on the property was a mosque protected under the waqf law, whether the first Mughal Emperor Babar built the structure in 1528, whether a Hindu temple was demolished to build the 'mosque', and finally, whether the Ram Janam Asthan is a 'juridical person'.

Justice Khan

The disputed structure was a mosque, but there is no direct evidence that Babar built it. No temple was demolished to construct the mosque. The mosque was constructed over temple ruins, using materials from the pre-existing structure. However, Justice Khan concluded that both Hindus and Muslims were unable to prove the commencement of their title over the disputed property.

The judge found that for a "very long time" before the construction of the mosque, Hindus believed that somewhere in the large premises Lord Ram was born. After the construction of the mosque, the Hindus believed that Lord Ram was born in the constructed portion of the disputed property. Then, some decades before 1949, Hindus started treating the exact spot under the central dome of the mosque as the birthplace of Lord Ram. The idol was placed under this central dome in the early hours of December 23, 1949.

Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi existed before 1855. The Hindus were worshipping there. The premises uniquely saw both Hindus offering worship as well as the Muslims offering namaz inside its boundary wall and compound. Both Hindus and Muslims were in joint possession of the disputed land.

Justice Agarwal

Agrees with Justice Khan on three points - That the exact birthplace of Lord Ram was under the central dome of the mosque; the disputed structure was always treated by the Muslims as a mosque; and there is no direct evidence that the mosque was built by Babar in 1528 AD. He however adds that the mosque was built definitely before the traveller Joseph Tieffenthaler visited Oudh in 1766-71.

But Justice Agarwal disagreed with Justice Khan on one point. That is, Justice Agarwal, unlike his colleague on the Bench, concluded that the mosque was built after demolishing a temple.

Justice Sharma

He concluded that the disputed structure was not a mosque and not built by Babar. A temple was demolished to build the disputed structure - a finding, the judge said, is supported by the Archeological Survey of India excavations at the site. He endorsed the argument that the pillars inside the mosque had images of Hindu gods, which is uncharacteristic of the architecture of a mosque under the tents of Islam.

Justice Sharma decided that Muslims did not use the building to offer prayers from 1528 AD. He confirmed a 1966 decision of a Civil Judges that the property was not a waqf as no valid notification was issued under Section 5(1) of the Muslim Waqf Act of 1936. He concluded that the Hindus had adverse possessory rights over the property which perfected their right of prayers.

He held that the laws of limitation applicable in a title declaratory suit did not apply for the Ayodhya deity, which is a minor.

Significantly, Justice Sharma supports the claim in the deity's suit that the disputed property, Ram Janm Bhumi' is itself a juristic person capable of having rights and endowed with immunity from any challenge under the law to its ownership. He had observed that the "Asthan is personified as the spirit of the divine". The arguments in the Supreme Court were largely based on this claim.

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