Ayodhya hearing concludes, finally

The bench has 32 days to write and pronounce their judgment.

New Delhi: After marathon arguments over 40 days, the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on a batch of cross-appeals filed by the Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Waqf Board and others against 2010 Allahabad High court judgment trifurcating the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya.

The High Court judgment had given two parts to Hindus — for the idol of Ram Lalla and for Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu sect — and one to Muslims. However, it was allocated such that the area under the dome of the now-demolished Babri Mosque went to the Hindu side.

After senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan concluded his arguments, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: “Hearing concluded. Judgment reserved. Parties to file written submissions on moulding of relief in three days.”

The bench also comprised Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandra-chud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer. They have 32 days to write and pronounce their judgment. The deadline is November 17, the day CJI Gogoi retires.

At the outset, Gogoi made it clear the hearing had to conclude on Wednesday.

“Enough is enough,” Gogoi said, adding that the hearing would conclude at 5 pm when they rose for the day. It ended 50 minutes earlier after Dhavan concluded his arguments reciting a couplet from the poet Iqbal.

At one stage, Gogoi exclaimed, “I can go out, if it is going…,” when a number of lawyers urged the bench to give them an opportunity to address the court on the issue.

Declining their request, the CJI said that at the very outset on August 6 the bench had made it clear that the parties had to adhere to the time schedule, leaving to them how they would share the time. His warning came as a number of lawyers persisted with their request.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan tore a map submitted by senior counsel Vikas Singh appearing for the All India Hindu Mahasabha. It was from the 1985 book Ayodhya by Hans Baker.

Dhavan said the map could not be relied upon as all case material was from 1950 to 1961, invoking the doctrine of ‘Post Motim Utin’ (barring the use of material beyond the case documents). “You do what you want,” Gogoi said.

No sooner had Dhavan torn the maps, there was commotion, angering the judges. “Decorum has been spoiled, decorum is not maintained. If proceedings continue in this manner, we would just get up and walk out,” said the Chief Justice.

When bench assembled post-lunch, Justice Nazeer said the tearing of the map went viral on social media. It was clarified that it was with the consent of the CJI, and Gogoi said that even this would go viral. The hearing also saw Dhavan chiding senior lawyer P.N.Mishra, appearing for a Hindu litigant, for his lack of knowledge of revenue laws during the Mughal period and described his arguments as “foolish”.

Mishra countered that he had written books on the laws of that period, and that people got PhDs based on his work. “I pity those PhDs,” Dhavan said.

The overall hearing saw the idol of Ram Lalla asserting claim to the title of the disputed site, contending that in 1528 Babri Masjid was constructed by demolishing the existing Ram temple, and cited objects that had surfaced in the excavation ordered by the Allahabad High Court and undertaken by the ASI. It was contended that this pointed to the existence of a huge structure supported by pillars and described as a temple.

Besides this, the proponents of the Ram temple have relied on oral evidence and accounts of European and Chinese travelers who visited Ayodhya over the centuries. They also cited the gazetteer of the East India Company in support of their claim.

Lawyers appearing for the idol of Ram Lalla asserted that Ram Janmasthan itself was a Swayambhu — a manifestation of God on the lines of Kedarnath and Badrinath temples.

They also referred to Hindu law that once a temple, always a temple, notwithstanding whether at some point it was destroyed and a mosque built over it.

Similarly, the Sunni Waqf Board relied on oral and documentary evidence in support of its claim to the title. They interpreted the archaeological findings at the disputed site as that of an idgah. Furthermore, the Babri Mosque stood at the disputed site ever since its construction in 1528 by Emperor Babur’s commander Mir Baqi, till it was razed on December 6, 1992. The Sunni Waqf Board pointed to the grants they received from Babur and later from the British administration in India.

As Dhavan concluded his arguments citing Iqbal’s couplet, Justice Nazeer noted that senior counsel K. Parasaran commenced his arguments reciting Janani Janma-bhoomi-scha Swargadapi Gariyasi.

VHP international president Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje hoped for a “favourable” verdict in the Ayodhya title suit case, hours after the supreme court reserved its order on the protracted litigation.

Muslim religious scholars and leaders said that the Supreme Court’s decision whatever it may be, should be accepted by both sides of the dispute.

Maulana Mehboob Daryadi, general secretary of All India Ulema Council, said, “We are happy that hearing is over, we want the court to take a final call on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of religious sentiments. From the very beginning we have been saying that we will accept whatever the court's decision will be, but people on the opposite side should also accept the court's decision,” he said.

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