Calling it ‘a strange and surprising order’ as none of the parties had sought a partition, the Supreme Court Monday stayed last year’s Allahabad High Court verdict dividing the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmbhoomi disputed site into three parts. While Muslim groups welcomed the ruling, the BJP and RSS hoped that all legal impediments to a Ram temple at the site would be removed.
Assailing the Sep 30, 2010 judgment of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, the apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice R.M. Lodha said that by directing the partition of the disputed site in Ayodhya, the high court has given an entirely new dimension to the case.
‘It is a rare judgment whose operation has to be stayed’ and an ‘entirely new dimension was given (to the case) by the high court (by its verdict)’, the apex court bench said.
‘It was a strange and surprising order that was not prayed for by any of the parties and cannot be allowed to remain,’ it said.
‘We have read the judgment twice,’ the court said, adding, ‘Nowhere was there a prayer by any party seeking division of the disputed site.’ The court said the case has opened a ‘litany of litigations’.
Justice Lodha said, ‘Partition (verdict). This is something surprising. Nobody prayed for partition.’
‘(High) Court has done something strange by its order,’ Justice Alam pointed out.
The Lucknow bench last year ordered that the land around the disputed site would be divided into three parts — one for the Ram Lalla deity, another for Sunni Wakf Board, and the third for Nirmohi Akhada, a Hindu sect and an original litigant in the case.
Even as senior counsel representing the contending parties argued over what part of the high court verdict should be stayed and to what extent, the court said: ‘There has to be clarity. The apex court verdict of Jan 7, 1993, (for status quo) must remain in operation till we hear the matter.’
Senior counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP wanted that the high court verdict be stayed and that would automatically stay further proceedings to operationsalise it. However, he said that nothing should come in the way of Hindus performing pooja at the makeshift temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
While seeking stay of the impugned high court verdict, senior counsel P.P. Rao appearing for one of the contending parties asked the court to call for the records of the trial court, digitalise the high court verdict and other records and make these available on CD.
While admitting the appeals by all the parties, the court said that ‘status quo as a disputed site will remain as directed by the constitution bench of the apex court by its verdict of Jan 7, 1993, and that of March 13-14, 2002′. The apex court had given the verdict in Mohd. Ismail Faruqui vs Union of India case.
The apex court was moved by the Sunni Waqf Board, Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, Ramlalla Virajman and Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, and Nirmohi Akhada, among others, challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict.
While ordering a stay, the apex court bench said that ‘at least on the issue of staying the operation of the high court verdict and maintaining status quo, there is unanimity among the contending parties.’
The apex court had allowed worship at the makeshift temple at Ayodhya and restrained all the parties from carrying out any religious activities on the 67.703 acres of land that was acquired by the central government around the disputed site.
The makeshift temple where pooja is performed is located on 2.77 acres of disputed site where the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished by Hindu radicals Dec 6, 1992.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on Sep 30, 2010, ruled that the Babri Masjid was built after demolishing a temple way back in 1528, and that the spot where a makeshift temple to Ram Lalla was built after razing the mosque in 1992 was indeed where Hindu god Ram was born.
The Sunni Waqf Board and Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind had questioned the high court relying on the so-called belief and faith of the Hindu community that the birth place of Lord Rama was just below the middle dome of the Babri Masjid.
Welcoming the ruling, Sunni Wakf Board lawyer Zafaryab Jilani said the Wakf board would follow the case in the Supreme Court. ‘After vacations, when the court meets, there will definitely be certain procedure (to follow).’
S.Q.R. Ilyas, member of the executive council of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, told IANS: ‘That it (high court) was a strange judgment, is a very important remark made by the Supreme Court.’
Abdul Hameed Nomani, secretary of Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, said: ‘The important question before the court is whether the country should be ruled on the basis of faith or facts.’
Ravi Shankar Prasad, asked if the ruling was a set back, said: ‘This is not a setback, not the least. As very clear from the overwhelming evidences, I am sure we’ll be able to convince the Supreme Court (to the making of a Ram temple).’
RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav told reporters: ‘It is significant that Hindus will be able to continue their prayers and ‘puja’ at the Ayodhya site.’
‘We hope that all legal impediments to the construction of the Ram temple will be removed,’ he said