“This Court as the final arbiter must preserve the sense of balance that the beliefs of one citizen do not interfere with or dominate the freedoms and beliefs of another.”
As the entire nation held it’s breath, the 5-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ, S.A. Bobde, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer, JJ, sat down on a Saturday morning, otherwise a holiday, to finally put an end to the Ayodhya Title dispute and held that the disputed land is to be given to Trust for construction of Ram Mandir. In an effort to balance the interest of both the parties involved, the Court directed that a suitable plot of 5 acres must be granted to Sunni Waqf Board to set up a Mosque. It said,
“justice would not prevail if the Court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law.”
However, the 1045 pages long ‘unanimous’ verdict is silent on who wrote it. One of the 5-judges wrote a separate but concurring opinion on the issue whether disputed structure is the holy birthplace of Lord Ram as per the faith, belief and trust of the Hindus. The name of the judge was, however, not disclosed as well.
Here are the key takeaways from the Ayodhya Verdict
Conclusion on Title
“The allotment of in respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims.”
- On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it.
- As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century.
- The Muslims were dispossessed upon the desecration of the mosque on 22/23 December 1949 which was ultimately destroyed on 6 December 1992. However, there was no abandonment of the mosque by the Muslims.
Though it held that Ram Mandir be built at the disputed site, the Court, however, directed
“Having weighed the nature of the relief which should be granted to the Muslims, we direct that land admeasuring 5 acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya.”
Legality of Allahabad High Court verdict
The three-way bifurcation by the High Court was legally unsustainable. Even as a matter of maintaining public peace and tranquillity, the solution which commended itself to the High Court is not feasible. The disputed site admeasures all of 1500 square yards. Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity.
Ram Lalla is a Juristic person
In the case of Hindu idols, legal personality is not conferred on the idol simpliciter but on the underlying pious purpose of the continued worship of the deity as incarnated in the idol. Where the legal personality is conferred on the purpose of a deity‘s continued worship, moving or destroying the idol does not affect its legal personality.
Ram Janmbhoomi is not a Juristic person
The conferral of juristic personality is a legal innovation applied by courts in situations where the existing law of the day has certain shortcomings or such conferral increases the convenience of adjudication. In the present case, the existing law is adequately equipped to protect the interests of the devotees and ensure against maladministration without recognising the land itself as a legal person. Hence, it is not necessary to embark on the journey of creating legal fictions that may have unintended consequences in the future.
Nirmohi Akhara‘s claim to possession of the inner courtyard
Nirmohi Akhara had denied the existence of the mosque & had said that the structure is a temple and not a mosque & that it had exclusive possession of the inner courtyard. It was also it’s case that no incident had taken place on 22/23 December 1949, when the idols were surreptitiously installed into the disputed structure. Refusing to accept the submissions, the Court has held,
“The mosque was partially damaged in 1934 and subsequently, obstructions were placed in the course of offering namaz in the mosque involving a denial of the right to pray for the Muslims. This is followed by the events which took place on 22/23 December 1949 when idols were surreptitiously placed under the central dome. Soon thereafter, proceedings were initiated under Section 145 resulting in the attachment of the property. In this background, it is difficult to accept the case of Nirmohi Akhara that the disputed structure was a temple which was in its exclusive possession and that no incident had taken place on 22/23 December 1949.”
Nirmohi Akhara is not a shebait
A stray or intermittent exercise of management rights does not confer upon a claimant the position in law of a de facto shebait. It cannot be said that the acts of Nirmohi Akhara satisfy the legal standard of management and charge that is exclusive, uninterrupted and continuous over a sufficient period of time. Despite their undisputed presence at the disputed site, Nirmohi Akhara is not a shebait.
Archaeological Survey of India’s Report
Taking into account the archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the now falled Babri Masjid and evidence of continuity in structural phases from the tenth century onwards upto the construction of the disputed structure along with the yield of stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of divine couple and carved architectural members including foliage patters, amalaka, kapotapali doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranala (waterchute) in the north, fifty pillar bases in association of the huge structure, are indicative of remains which are distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India.
Sunni Waqf Board’s claim to possession
The Sunni Central Waqf Board has not established its case of a dedication by user. The alternate plea of adverse possession has not been established by the Sunni Central Waqf Board as it failed to meet the requirements of adverse possession. Since the Hindus have been in exclusive and unimpeded possession of the outer courtyard where they have continued worship, Sunni Waqf Board can’t be held to have the possession of the disputed property.
Destruction of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992
The destruction of the mosque took place in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance given to this Court. The destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law.
Dismissal of Shia Central Board of Waqf’s SLP
The Waqf Board was not able to explain the inordinate delay of 24964 days in filing the Special Leave Petition against the final judgment dated 30 March 1946 of the Civil Judge, Faizabad. The SLP was, hence, dismissed.
- Central Government to formulate a scheme for he setting up of a trust with a Board of Trustees or any other appropriate body within 3 months. Nirmohi Akhara to be given adequate representation in the Trust.
- Possession of the inner and outer courtyards shall be handed over to the Board of Trustees of the Trust or to the body so constituted. Possession of the disputed property shall continue to vest in the statutory receiver under the Central Government till then.
- A suitable plot of land admeasuring 5 acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by
- The Central Government out of the land acquired under the Ayodhya Act 1993; or
- The State Government at a suitable prominent place in Ayodhya.
[M. Siddiq v. Mahant Suresh Das, 2019 SCC OnLine 1440, decided on 09.11.2019]