Ayodhya Verdict: Time to Move On

Published : Nov 26, 2019 09:04 am | By: M D Sridharan

It is important to understand the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in the larger interests of the country. It is time to accept the verdict in the true essence of democracy and not give it a religious colour and polarise further.

On November 9, the Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in one of the most sensitive and contentious issue - the Ram Janmabhoomi – for which the whole nation waited for more than seven decades.  Finally, the constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi delivered the judgment putting to rest the competing claims of two opposing sides — for the construction of a Ram temple and the rebuilding of the Babri masjid respectively.

After the continuous hearing of 40 days, in which the judges patiently heard the lawyers from both sides of the litigants – Hindus and Muslims – put forth several documents - dating back to 1856 to ancient texts of Hindu scriptures as well as references from Hadith and Quran and 18th century travelogues as evidences to the title suit.The Supreme Court heard the arguments for 40 days that the lawyers drew references to events spanning centuries right from the Mughal rule to the British colonial rule and to the present constitutional regime and gave its unanimous verdict by way of lawful resolution.

On November 9, the five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, delivered its judgment in the cross-appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim sides challenging the three-way partition of the disputed 2.77 acres of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land among Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board in September 2010.

The 1045-page judgment which has been signed by all the five judges – CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S A Bobde, Justice D Y Chandrachud,  Justice S Abdul Nazeer, Justice Ashok Bhushan - finally delivered a unanimous verdict on the country’s oldest legal dispute. In a unanimous judgment, the constitution bench ordered that a temple must be constructed at the disputed site and the Muslims must be compensated with five acres of land at a prominent place in Ayodhya to build a new mosque as a token of compensation for the wrongs they suffered due to demolition of the Babri Masjid, thus bringing to an end more than a century-long dispute over the title of the land. The bench also ordered the Central government to formulate a scheme within three months to implement the order.

The constitution bench acknowledged the faith and belief of millions of devotees of Lord Shri Ram and ruled in favour of Hindus. Through the verdict the Supreme Court paved the way for construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, on the ground that the Hindu litigants had demonstrated a stronger claim to the disputed property than the Muslim side. “The evidence in respect of 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” the five-judge bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said.

Eventually, the Supreme Court, on the basis of clear evidence held that, “the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded” and “their (Hindus) possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it.”

Further, the Court also recorded that “The Muslim side 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.”

Based on the evidences the Court set aside the Allahabad High Court judgment and held that “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 measures 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.”

The unanimous judgement reflects the essence of democracy as it is governed by the rule of law which emphasises that all faiths and religions are to be respected equally.

Finally, it augurs well for our democracy that had the patience to as both sides – Hindus and Muslims - waited for decades for this historic verdict. It must also be lauded that despite the fact that the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoombi dispute has political and social ramifications, after the verdict both communities displayed that unity in diversity is the inherent strength of our democracy with no major arson reported across the length and breadth of the country.

The centre and the Uttar Pradesh government did a splendid job in maintaining the law and order ensuring peace by keeping away the potential troublemakers who could trigger violence and enflame properties.  It is indeed laudable that the two institutions, the judiciary and the government took pre-emptive measures to prevent violence. Also, it must be noted that the political parties too showed lot of maturity and not only standing firmly behind the judgement but also showed utter discipline by not issuing provocative statements that can set the mob fury.

Even before the verdict was out, both communities and political parties appealed to the people and its cadres to take the verdict in their stride and not to indulge in any kind of celebrations or violence. Soon after the verdict a mature India witnessed absolutely no triumphalism, no victory marches, no provocation what so ever, no threats and no anguish. Neither the Hindus jump in to ecstasy nor the Muslims went in to depression, but a general sense of peace and calm prevailed all over the country.

Muslim bodies split on verdict

Most sensitive judicial pronouncements are always subjected to criticism and the Ayodhya verdict is no exception. Despite the apex Court has given elaborate reasons for its judgement based on a “preponderance of evidence” there is dissonance on the verdict.  After the Supreme Court gave its unanimous verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit which paved the way for the construction of new Ram Mandir, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has openly came out with its dissent and decided to file a review petition against the judgment.

Just hours after the verdict, AIMPLB secretary and lawyer Zafaryab Jilani said while the board accepted the verdict, it was considering filing a review. However, while some members of the  board want to file a review petition and all the injustices and flaws in the verdict must be documented in the form of a petition, others do not want to review the verdict.   

Asaduddin Owaisi, President, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party, said that the verdict was "a victory of faith over facts". “The judgement is by no means the complete justice that the powers under Article 142 are required to be used for. It is at best incomplete justice or at worst complete injustice," he also tweeted.

Zufar Farooqui, chairman of the UP Sunni Waqf Board, one of the key Muslim parties in the title dispute case, issued a statement  saying he “humbly accepted the verdict” and won’t be reviewing it. Imam Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, too has said he is against filing a review petition against the verdict, since it would just mean stretching the issue further.

National Commission for Minorities chairman Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi has said Muslims should refrain from filing a review plea against the Supreme Court ruling in the Ayodhya verdict. He has also pointed out the fact that AIMPLB had promised the country before the judgment that they would abide by it. Muslims never said they would abide by the judgment only if it is in their favour. So essentially, they have now reneged on that word. But what is far more dangerous is the message that a review petition would send out — that Muslims are deliberately creating obstructions in the building of a Ram temple, to celebrate the most important Hindu God, he cautioned further.

Also it is a fact of history that thousands of temples have been ravaged during the Mughal rule and the Hindus have been fighting relentlessly for centuries to restore just one site which they hail as the birth place of their most important God- Lord Shri Ram. It is time that Muslims must understand the significance (and also the clinching evidences) and leave it to Hindus and move on.

In the historic verdict in the Ram Janambhoomi issue, the Supreme Court has described the demolition of the Babri Masjid as an "egregious violation of the rule of law". Indeed the Supreme Court rightfully observed the damage done to Babri Masjid and ensured that a wrong committed at a place of worship must be remedied.

Many Muslims parties point out to that description and claim that a majestic 16th century mosque was unlawfully demolished and demand punishment of those guilty and restore the destroyed place of worship. Taking the same argument in to consideration, it was the Muslims who first destroyed the place of worship of the Hindus and built a mosque over there. Going by that account, it is only fair to restore the place of worship to the Hindus.

Critics have also have raised the issue of the apex court taking in to account of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report as secular evidence. While the report does “find the evid­ence of pre-existing structure”, there is no evidence to suggest that the Babri Masjid was constructed after ­demolishing the und­erlying structure.

Also the apex court ruled that for a long period of nearly four centuries – from the date of the construction of the mosque until the setting up of a grill-brick wall by the British - the Sunni Waqf Board has not produced any clinching evidence of the exercise of possessory claim over the disputed site; nor “is there any evidence of offering namaaz in the mosque over this period”. On the hand the Hindus had uninterrupted access to the inner and outer courtyards of the Babri Masjid and continue to offer pujas to Ram Lalla.

The apex court has noted, “The law must stand apart from political contestations over history, ideology and religion. The court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence” and “settled principles of evidence” must be app­lied to adjudicate upon title claims. This is exactly what the court has done, in so far as resolving the title dispute is concerned”

The apex court made it clear that not faith, but secular law and evidence, should be the factor for its verdict and ruled that it “cannot reduce questions of title, to a question of which community’s faith is stronger.

Muslim bodies are divided on the issue with one faction deciding to file a review petition and the other holding that it would be a fruitless exercise, as the outcome is unlikely to be any different from the original verdict.

One must also consider the fact the unanimous judgment has been made in difficult times. It is unworthy to att­ribute political motives to the judgement of the constitutional bench in the name of secularism.

 

Legal experts point out that, since the verdict by the five-judges is unanimous and every detail from both sides have been scrupulously analysed and debated at length for 40 days of continuous hearings, the scope for error in the final judgement running over 1,045 pages is limited. So, is the scope of revision.

Time to Move Forward

Of course, in this country politicians have successfully used religion for their mileage.  It is also true that many politicians have miserably failed to harmonise the collective interests of the Hindus and the Muslims and the nation as a whole. In the past, religious politics has created rifts and fuelled communal tensions across the country.

Now, having seen the light at the end of the long-drawn battle that has really put the country on boil for several decades, it is now in the hands of the Hindus not to take this verdict as a barometer and go over board and demand other places of worships such as Kasi and Madura. Having tirelessly fought for Lord Ram, now it is time for the Hindus to keep up the morality and follow Lord Ram in spirits and action as true Ram bhakths.

On the other hand, it is time that the Muslims must realise that it is a fact of history that thousands of temples have been ravaged during the Mughal rule and the Hindus have been fighting relentlessly for centuries to restore just one site which they hail as the birth place of their most important God- Lord Shri Ram. It is time that Muslims must understand the significance (and also the clinching evidences) and leave it to Hindus and move on.

Simple harmonious actions by both communities will augur well for the country as a whole. It will go in a long way to establish the true Hindu-Muslim unity and the spirits of Indian democracy. Let us take this verdict as the beginning of new 21st century India.

 

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