The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday accused Muslim appellants of trying to “delay” the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute hearing in the Supreme Court, saying religious sentiments of a large population are involved in the case.
Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta made a vociferous submission in the Supreme Court that there was something “inherently wrong” with the appellants’ plea that a Constitution Bench should first decide the question whether “mosque as a place of prayer is an essential part of Islam” before the appeals are heard anymore.
‘Islam would collapse’
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, for the appellants, countered that Islam would collapse if prayers are not allowed in mosques. “If the congregation part of Islam is taken away, a large part of Islam goes worthless. Mosques are meant for congregation and prayer,” Mr. Dhavan replied on why mosques are “essential”.
Mr. Mehta, however, questioned the timing of the request. He said none of the appellants raised the question of the essentiality of mosques to Islam when the appeals were filed in the Supreme Court in 2010. The question was also not raised for the eight years the appeals lay pending in the apex court. “So why now?” he asked.
“The Ayodhya dispute has been going on for over 60 years. There are 533 exhibits involved, 83 witnesses have been examined, documents up to 30,990 pages have been compiled, the number of books are more than 1,000, the records are in various languages from Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Pali, etc, there are artefacts, religious sentiments and pathos across the width and depth of the country are involved,” Mr. Mehta submitted before a Special Bench of three judges led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
The submissions saw senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, for the appellants, react that the Uttar Pradesh government was supposed to be a “neutral party” in the case and not take sides.
The bone of contention is an observation made in a 1994 judgment of the Supreme Court in Ismail Farooqui case that “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz [prayer] by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open.”
The appellants want the Special Bench to refer the question to the Constitution Bench before anything further is heard in the civil appeals against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment directing a three-way partition of the Babri Masjid site.
Mr. Dhavan said the observation in the Ismail Farooqui judgment had affected the status of mosques in Islam.
“But nobody is contesting the fact that mosques are essential to Islam... the question is whether prayer [in a mosque] is an essential part of the Islam,” Justice Ashok Bhushan on the Bench with Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, addressed Mr. Dhavan.
Senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, for one of the contesting Hindu bodies, said the observation in the 1994 judgment, read in its entirety, only points to the fact that all places of worship are equally susceptible for government acquisition. “The observation only says that,” Mr. Vaidyanathan argued.
In fact, the particular paragraph in the judgment reads that “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz [prayer] by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India. Irrespective of the status of a mosque in an Islamic country for the purpose of immunity from acquisition by the State in exercise of the sovereign power, its status and immunity from acquisition in the secular ethos of India under the Constitution is the same and equal to that of the places of worship of the other religions, namely, church, temple etc. It is neither more nor less than that of the places of worship of the other religions.”
The court has scheduled the next hearing for July 13.