Supreme Court on Ayodhya case: Temple at disputed site and to allot alternative land for mosque.

The Supreme Court in a unanimous verdict on Saturday cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.

In one of the most important and most anticipated judgements in India’s history, a 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the more than a century old dispute that has torn the social fabric of the nation.

The apex court said the mosque should be constructed at a “prominent site” and a trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.

The site was occupied by the 16th century Babri mosque which was destroyed by Hindu kar sevaks on December 6, 1992.

The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, said possession of the disputed 2.77 acre land rights will be handed over to the deity Ram Lalla, who is one of the three litigants in the case. The possession however will remain with a central government receiver.

The Supreme Court said the Hindus have established their case that they were in possession of outer courtyard and the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board has failed to establish its case in the Ayodhya dispute.

Delivering its verdict in the politically-sensitive case of Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya, the apex court directed allotment of alternative land to Muslims to build a new mosque.

The apex court said the extensive nature of Hindus worshipping at outer courtyard at the disputed site has been there, and the evidence suggests the Muslims offered Friday prayers at mosque which indicates that they had not lost possession of the site.

It said that despite obstruction caused in offering prayers at Mosque, the evidences suggest that there was no abandonment in offering prayers.

The apex court further said that the underlying structure below the disputed site at Ayodhya was not an Islamic structure, but the ASI has not established whether a temple was demolished to build a mosque.

It said that terming the archeological evidence as merely an opinion would be a great disservice to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The court also said that the Hindus consider the disputed site as the birthplace of Lord Ram and even Muslims say this about that place.

The faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed, the apex court said.

The bench said the existence of Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar grih are the testimony of the religious fact of the place.

The apex court said however that the title cannot be established on the ground of faith and belief and they are only indicators for deciding the dispute.

Supreme Court to hear Ayodhya land dispute case Friday

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Friday the issues relating to the Ayodhya’s Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.

A notice in this regard was put up on the apex court website which said that the matter will be heard by a five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

The matter will come for the first time on Friday since March 8 order by which the top court had referred the decades-old politically sensitive case for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla for exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement.

Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, are the other two members of the panel of mediators.

The panel was asked by the apex court to hold an in-camera proceedings and complete it within eight weeks.

The Contentious Issue Is Relating To Ram’s Birth Place, That Is Not Negotiable”: CS Vaidyanathan

At the outset of the Ayodhya hearing on Wednesday, it was contended that in view of Order VIII Rule 4 of the CPC, the instant dispute being in the nature of a representative suit, no part of the claim could be abandoned and no compromise could be effectively recorded unless the Court has given notice to all persons so interested. The Supreme Court five-judge bench had assembled to decide on the reference of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute for mediation.

Justice Ashok Bhushan clarified that the said provision would apply in the event of court proceedings, when the court decided the matter, and not on mediation. “If the Hindus are not ready for mediation, then nobody has the right to negotiate. It is a sentimental issue and there is no position to compromise”, it was insisted.

“When the court orders mediation in a matrimonial proceeding, it is with the understanding that it may result in either divorce or conciliation . The outcome is not in the mind of the court. You are just saying that we can’t compromise so it may be not be necessary…”, interjected Justice S. A. Bobde. “Are you saying it is a failure if it is attempted even before it is attempted? That is not fair. When the court is ordering mediation, we are not led by the assumption that someone will give up something or that someone will get something. We know the dispute is not just about property or an arch of land but about sentiments and faith. Don’t think we are not conscience of it. We are aware of the impact and the gravity of the dispute and its effect on the body politic of this country.

Apart from the law, we are inspired by these factors in ordering mediation- the Mind, the heart and the feelings. We don’t understand how it is being rejected even without attempt…We have also read the history. You don’t have to argue on the history to postpone all this. You know what you are doing…We have no control over what happened in the past, whether there was a temple or a mosque. We can only undo what exists in the present, and that is the dispute!”, continued the judge. Placing reliance on the 2010 apex court decision in M/S Afcons Infra. Ltd, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhawan (for the Sunni Waqf Board) argued that the consent of the parties is not a prerequisite for a reference to mediation- “Arbitration and conciliation require consent. But in the other forms of ADR, like Lok Adalats, it is not required.

The Nature of the mediation process is not affected by an agreement of the parties or the lack of it. It is not binding, so you are still free” “It is not necessary for the court to formulate the terms of settlement. Your Lordships may merely describe the nature of the dispute in a sentence or two”, he continued. “As for the selection of the mediator, there could be a well-trained mediator. Or alternatively, the parties may nominate the mediator”, suggested Dr. Dhawan. Justice Bobde added that there could also be a panel as in the case of arbitration. The Senior Counsel advanced that even the original record need not be sent to the mediator, unless the process is under the supervision of a judicial officer. He advanced that the proceeding may be held in-camera, the parties being instructed to not divulge any details.

Agreeing that confidentiality is a mandatory condition, Justice Bobde weighed in, “Now take a case where there is a matrimonial dispute which is sent for mediation. Or a case of partition of property between brothers. When is confidentiality breached- when someone known to the party talks. It is important that it is not printed in the media or commented on while the process is on. A gag order is not our intention or the point. But It should not be reported while the process is on because it is simple to make some comment attributing some motive to someone” Venturing that the concerned counsel ask clients to not make any revelations, Dr. Dhawan pointed out that there may even lie an action of contempt for a publication in respect of an in-camera proceeding if the court has so prohibited. At this point, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud posed a question as to how a compromise between the parties could be effectuated to dispose off the dispute- ” this is a not a dispute between just the parties, but a wider dispute between communities.

How will we bind them?” “You can’t…you will bind when the judgment comes if mediation fails”, conceded Dr. Dhawan. “One point of mediation could be- where? The Hindus on this side or the Muslims on this side? An area has to be considered”, he continued. In the light of section 89(2)(d) of the CPC, which provides that where a dispute is referred for mediation, the court shall effect a compromise between the parties and shall follow such procedure as may be prescribed, Justice Chandrachud reflected, “The desirability of a negotiated outcome cannot be understated. But what if there is no compromise? That is the issue. For adjudication, it is this side or that side, but not for mediation” On the argument of the proceedings being representative in nature, Justice Bobde noted, “Whether it is mediation or a court proceeding, if a party is recognized as representative of a community, it will bind everybody. If it is good for one, it is good for the other” “Beyond rule 8, if there is a difficulty of non-consensus, it is all between the parties and nobody else”, added Dr. Dhawan. “And parties would include those who they have been allowed to represent”, clarified Justice Bobde.

At the Hindu side, an objection was raised on account of Order XXIII Rule 3B of the CPC, which stipulates that no compromise shall be entered into in a representative suit without the leave of the court and that before granting such leave, the Court shall give notice to all such persons as may appear to it to be interested in the suit. “Suppose there is a decree, it will bind all? You know what happens to a compromise when it is presented to the court- it becomes a decree…After a public notice, we can still appoint those who would represent either side. Will it then not bind those who are not party to the proceeding?..

.A decree passed in compromise is no different from the one passed in judgment. There is no defect or lacuna in the law that it can’t be done!”, observed Justice Bobde. While the other faction- the All India Hindu Mahasabha headed by Swami Chakrapani- batted for mediation, On behalf of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, the need for a public notice was reiterated. Justice Bhushan asserted that that formality applies not at the appellate stage but for deciding the suit, which the Allahabad High Court should have considered.

Opposing a reference to mediation,  advanced that the contentious issue being which is the Ram Janma Sthan, the present matter is non-negotiable. “In a mediation proceedingSenior Counsel C. S. Vaidyanathan, for Ram Lalla,, nobody can agree to some other place as the birth place. An alternative place for the mosque can be considered. We are even prepared to crowdfund it”, he said. “You are assuming that this is not a point of view you can put forth in mediation. You can!”, assured Justice Bobde. Indicating the definition of ‘decree’ in Section 2(2) of the CPC, Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar (representing Mahant Suresh Das) again argued that if a decree is to be binding, in a representative suit, the question of mediation does not arise. “It doesn’t arise because settlements can’t be effected without involving others? The compromise can’t be made a decree without notice to all?”, asked Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

As Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought to make submissions for the state of UP, Dr. Dhawan opposed him vehemently, saying that it is “unacceptable”, that the SG appears for the statutory receiver, that the state had initially said that it is not interested in the dispute. “I am not on merits. Even if it appears that there are elements of settlement, the state thinks that considering the facts, the nature of dispute and the possible fall-out, it will not be advisable or prudent to take this path”, submitted the SG.

Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute : SC says aware of outcome of mediation on body politic of country

The Supreme Court Wednesday said it was conscious of the gravity of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute and the outcome of mediation on the body politic of the country.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the case was not only about property but also about sentiment and faith.

“It is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible,” the bench also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer said.

“We are not concerned about what Mughal ruler Babur had done and what happened after. We can go into what exists in the present moment,” the bench said.

The apex court is considering whether the dispute can be settled through mediation.

The top court had asked the contesting parties to explore the possibility of amicably settling the decades-old dispute through mediation, saying it may help in “healing relations”.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

Ayodhya dispute: SC likely to hear pleas against HC verdict on Monday

New Delhi:
The Supreme Court is likely to hear Monday a batch of pleas challenging the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict by which the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area in Ayodhya was divided into three parts.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph would hear the appeals filed in the matter.

On September 27, the apex court had declined to refer to a five-judge constitution bench the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam which had arisen during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.

In a majority verdict of 2:1, a three-judge bench headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra had said the civil suit has to be decided on the basis of evidence and the previous verdict has no relevance to this issue.

Justice Ashok Bhushan, who had penned the judgment for himself and the Chief Justice of India, had said it has to find out the context in which the five-judge bench had delivered the 1994 verdict. 

However, Justice S Abdul Nazeer had disagreed with the two judges and had said whether a mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering religious belief which requires detailed consideration.

The court had on September 27 said the civil suit on land dispute would be heard by a three-judge bench on October 29.

The issue whether a mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when the three-judge bench was hearing the appeals filed against the Allahabad High Court’s verdict.

The three-judge high court bench, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered that the 2.77 acres of land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

SC to check whether there should be total ban on firecrackers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today said it would examine whether there should be a total ban on use of firecrackers as it noted that air pollution reached hazardous proportions during Diwali.

It said around 20-25 per cent of children in the city suffer from respiratory problems due to abnormally high levels of pollution during the festival.

“Are we supposed to take a holistic approach and ban everything that contributes to pollution or take an ad-hoc approach and simply ban firecrackers?” a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked.

The court also noted that air pollution posed a major threat to infants and the toxicity of the air increased exponentially after burning of crackers.
Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for a firecracker manufacturer, argued that according to studies, the effect of ban on crackers on air pollution has been meagre and that there should be a scientific study on the issue.

The matter was listed for hearing on August 8.
The top court had last year banned the sale of firecrackers for a limited period while hearing a plea filed by three minors through their guardian.
The court had refused to relax its October 9 order banning the sale of firecrackers while dismissing a plea by traders who had sought its permission to sell crackers for at least a day or two before Diwali on October 19, 2017.
It had said that its ban order during Diwali that year was an experiment to examine its effect on the pollution level in the region.

1000 standard-floor cluster buses will be fitted with hydraulic lifts, says Delhi govt to SC

New Delhi: The Delhi government today told the Supreme Court that it will install hydraulic lifts in 1,000 standard-floor buses to be procured under the cluster scheme on its own cost to make them accessible for differently-abled persons, especially those on wheel chair.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has challenged an order of the Delhi High Court by which it had barred them from procuring 2,000 standard-floor buses.
The top court, had yesterday asked the government to explain by today, whether it intends to make these cluster buses friendly to differently-abled persons by fitting them with hydraulic lifts.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan was told that a meeting was held by Delhi’s Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot on the issue of wheelchair friendly/accessible buses on June 19, after the High Court had on June 1 restrained it from going ahead with the tendering process for purchasing buses.

“Pursuant to the said meeting, the government of NCT of Delhi is agreeable to have these mechanical lifts fitted on all the buses proposed to be acquired under the Cluster scheme by the L1 bidders,” the Delhi government said through an affidavit.
It further said, “The mechanical lifts will be installed by the Vehicle Manufacturers as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). The fitment of hydraulic lifts is also envisaged under the harmonised guidelines issued by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.”
The government said in the meeting it was decided that the cost of this additional fitment (hydraulic lifts), which was not mentioned in the original tender specification, has been agreed to be borne by the government of Delhi in principle.

Justifying the move, the AAP government said this decision has been taken by it considering the dire need to augment the existing bus fleet, particularly on the rural routes identified for the purpose and the urgency of doing so in larger public interest and also specifically the need for disabled friendly public transport.

“The decision will address the issue of accessible public buses to passengers with locomotor disability,” it said, adding that the decision was also taken to avoid any further delay in the acquisition of buses for public transport as a fresh tender may delay the entire process by more than a year.

The bench took the affidavit on record and posted the matter for further hearing next week.
The apex court had yesterday asked probing questions to the AAP government and the DTC over their intention to purchase 2,000 standard-floor cluster buses, which are not friendly to differently-abled persons.
The government had later during the hearing had informed the court that a tender floated on March 16 by the DTC for procurement of 1,000 standard-floor buses is most likely to be scrapped as only one bidder has come forward.

It had said that fitting of hydraulic lifts to make the buses friendly for differently-abled persons, would entail a total cost of around Rs 80-90 crores.
The government counsel had said that after talking to Gahlot, he was informed that a decision has been taken to procure additional 500 low-floor buses, which will be friendly to differently abled persons.
He had said that this decision of procuring additional 500 buses will be soon placed before the cabinet, as the government intends to increase the fleet of public transport buses.

The high court had on June 1, pulled up the AAP government for “not taking a single step for ensuring accessible transport” for disabled persons in the national capital and restrained it from procuring standard-floor buses as it impedes their mobility.
It had said that the government is bent upon “treating the disabled as non-existent, or, in any case not having any rights”.

SC slams govt over non-compliance of verdict on making public institutions disabled-friendly

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today slammed the Centre over non-compliance of its last year verdict of making public institutions disabled-friendly and said the government had to follow the law and order.
The top court also expressed annoyance over the states not complying with its order and warned that respective chief secretaries will be called to explain the delay.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked the Centre to file a fresh affidavit within four weeks giving details of the steps taken so far and the timeline for completing the work as given in its December 15, 2017 verdict.
“We have not said anything new in our verdict of December 15, 2017. It was your (Centre) law and we just asked you to comply with it. We are not running the government. It’s you who has to follow the law and the order,” the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said she will file an affidavit in this regard in four weeks, adding that a lot of work has been done in pursuance to the court’s direction.
The bench, however, said that the Centre should file a detailed affidavit.
The apex court, in a fresh petition seeking to make judiciary disabled-friendly, especially for visually impaired people, issued notices to the registrar generals of all high courts and the secretary general of the Supreme Court.
The top court had on December 15, 2017 passed 11 directions which include making public institutions, transport and educational institutions disabled-friendly.
It said it was imperative to provide proper and safe access to roads, transport, buildings and public places to differently-abled people so that they could enjoy a meaningful life and contribute to the progress of the nation.
The top court said the right to dignity, which is ensured in the constitutional set up for every citizen, applies with much more vigour in cases of persons suffering from disability and it was duty of the State and public authorities to lay down proper norms in this regard.

The top court passed a slew of directions, including that all government buildings providing any services to the public be made fully accessible to differently-abled persons by June 2019 as per provision of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

SC lifts ban on rallies, dharnas at Jantar Mantar, Boat Club

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today lifted a blanket ban on rallies, dharnas or sit-ins at the Jantar Mantar and Boat Club areas, saying there could not be an “absolute” ban on protests in such localities.

The top court also asked the Centre to frame guidelines within two months for according sanctions to such events.
A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said, “There is a need to strike a balance between conflicting rights such as the right to protest and the right of citizens to live peacefully.”

“There cannot be a complete or absolute ban on holding protests at places like Jantar Mantar and Boat Club (near India Gate),” the bench added, while directing the Centre to frame guidelines on the matter.
The verdict came on a batch of petitions, including one filed by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, an NGO, challenging the decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to ban all kinds of protests at the said places.

The top court had earlier observed, “When, during elections, politicians can go among the public to seek votes, why can’t people come near their offices after the polls to protest.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO and other petitioners, had contended that the Centre had completely banned protests or assembly of people in whole of central Delhi and imposed section 144, CrPC permanently in the guise of avoiding traffic obstruction.
He had said the authorities had asked the protesters to go to the Ramlila Maidan to stage agitations, while there were several court verdicts that recognised the “people’s right to protest”.
“The protests have to be near the seat of power, so that the people can make their voices heard,” Bhushan had submitted, while referring to a Delhi High Court verdict, recognising the people’s right to protest at the gate of a factory, so long it did not affect the traffic.

Earlier, the Centre had justified the continuous imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144, CrPC in central Delhi, which houses most of the government offices and VIP residences.
The Centre’s counsel had told the apex court that this was an era of “professional protesters”, who liked to protest outside Parliament or the president’s or prime minister’s house to make their voices heard.
He had added that the government had to take holistic steps while dealing with such protests, rallies and dharnas to ensure that peace and harmony prevailed in an area.

The Centre, while justifying the permanent imposition of prohibitory orders in its affidavit, had referred to over a dozen instances when protests had turned violent and the police had to use teargas shells and water cannons to control the mobs at the Jantar Mantar and Boat Club areas.

The plea moved by the NGO had challenged the complete ban on assemblies and protests in the central and New Delhi areas imposed by the NGT.

It had claimed that there could not be a continuous imposition of prohibitory orders in entire central Delhi, which was an emergency provision to be used when there was an apprehension of violence or law-and-order problems.

It had said it would have been understandable if the government’s decision to impose prohibitory orders was based on a specific intelligence input or apprehension of a protest turning violent.
The NGT had, on October 5 last year, banned all protests and dharnas around the historic Jantar Mantar here, which had been a hotspot of many agitations over the past decades, saying such activities violated environmental laws.
The green panel had said the State had totally failed to protect the right of a citizen to enjoy a pollution-free environment at the Jantar Mantar Road area, which was located close to Connaught Place at the heart of the national capital.
It had added that it was the duty of the State to ensure that the right of the people to live a peaceful and comfortable life was not infringed by those who created noise pollution in the name of their right to freedom of speech and expression, which could never be unlimited.
The tribunal had directed the authorities to shift the protesters to an alternative site at the Ramleela Grounds in Ajmeri Gate “forthwith”.

It had also said those participating in protests and raising slogans through loudspeakers had no right to compel the people living in the area to tolerate it day and night.

SC dismisses CBI probe into WB BJP workers death

New Delhi:The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea seeking a CBI probe into the recent killing of two BJP workers in Purulia district of West Bengal after panchayat polls.

A vacation bench of Justices A K Goel and Ashok Bhushan asked the petitioners to approach the Calcutta High Court for the relief.

Advocate Gaurav Bhatia, appearing for petitioners, said that it is a serious matter as the killing of BJP workers have taken place after the panchayat polls in Purulia district.

On May 30, 18-year-old Tirlochan Mahato, a BJP worker from Balrampur village of Purulia district was found hanging from a tree with a poster written in Bengali struck on his back, saying he was killed for canvassing for the BJP during panchayat election.

Another death of one Dulal Kumar, also a BJP worker, had taken place on June 2 in a similar manner in the same district.

The petition was filed by the father of Kumar, who sought a CBI probe into the killings.