Ayodhya case: Supreme Court commences hearing; Nirmohi Akhara to continue arguments

The Supreme Court on Wednesday commenced hearing on the second day of the politically-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya after the efforts to arrive at an amicable settlement through mediation have failed.

Senior advocate Sushil Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akhara, one of the parties in the case, commenced arguments on the second day before a five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

Nirmohi Akhara had on Tuesday strongly pitched in the Supreme Court for control and management of the entire disputed 2.77-acre land, saying Muslims had not been allowed to enter the place since 1934.

The bench — also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer — had last Friday taken note of the report of the three-member mediation panel, headed by former apex court judge FMI Kalifulla, that the mediation proceedings, which went on for about four months, have not resulted in any final settlement.

Ayodhya dispute: No Muslims were allowed to enter the structure since 1934, says Nirmohi Akhara

Nirmohi Akhara, one of the parties in the politically sensitive case of the Ayodhya land dispute, told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that no Muslims were allowed to enter the structure since 1934 and it has been in exclusive possession of the Akhara.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, was told by senior advocate Sushil Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akhara, that it was seeking management and possession of the area.

The Akhara counsel told the court that its suit was basically for belongings, possession and management rights.

“I am a registered body. My suit is basically for belongings, possession and management rights,” said the Akhara counsel.

He also told the court that the Akhara was in possession of the inner courtyard and Ram Janmasthan for hundreds of years.

“We were in possession of inner courtyard and Ram Janmasthan for hundreds of years. Outer courtyard having ‘Sita Rasoi’, ‘Chabutra’, ‘Bhandar Grah’ were in our possession and it was never a part of dispute in any case,” the senior counsel told the bench.

At the outset, the apex court had rejected the plea of former RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya seeking live streaming or recording of the case proceedings.

The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer is conducting day-to-day hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in Ayodhya after the efforts to arrive at an amicable settlement through mediation have failed.

It had on August 2 taken note of the report of the three-member mediation panel, headed by former apex court judge FMI Kalifulla, that the mediation proceedings, which went on for about four months, have not resulted in any final settlement.

The mediation panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, had said in its report submitted on Thursday that the Hindu and the Muslim parties have not been able to find a solution to the vexatious dispute.

Ayodhya verdict: Nirmohi Akhara to also move Supreme Court

The decision of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board to take the Ayodhya battle to the Supreme Court has prompted one of the key Hindu parties, Nirmohi Akhara, to follow suit, almost ruling out any chance of an out-of-court settlement. “We have no choice but to move the Supreme Court now, since related stories the Sunni Central Waqf Board’s resolve to file an appeal agaist the (Sep 30) Allahabad High Court verdict has been formally endorsed by the Muslim Personal Law Board,” Akhara spokesman Mahant Ram Das said over telephone from Ayodhya.

Speaking on behalf of 89-year-old Akhara head Mahant Bhaskar Das, who avoids talking over the phone on account of his hearing impairment, Ram Das said: “We were somehow apprehensive that a particular lobby among Muslims was not interested in closing the Ayodhya chapter and that is exactly what has happened. Under the circumstances, we are compelled to take the same course and file an appeal before the Supreme Court.”

Asked what would happen to the initiatives taken by 90-year-old Hashim Ansari, the first Muslim plaintiff in the case, to put an end to the court battle and settle the dispute through dialogue, Ram Das said: “Well, we all appreciate Ansari’s efforts to which Mahant Bhaskar Das had also responded very positively, but what to do now?”

Signalling a hardened position, he said: “We have reason to believe that we must not only have full right over the entire disputed land, but also be given complete right to perform puja and have full control over the proposed temple.”

A three-judge special bench of the Allahabad High Court had ordered division of the disputed 90 ft x 120 ft plot of land where the Babri masjid once stood into three parts – one to Ram Lalla, one to the Nirmohi Akhara and one to the Sunni Waqf Board.

After a meeting of its executive here Saturday, the AIMPLB said it had decided to appeal in the Supreme Court against the Ayodhya verdict, but clarified it was not opposed to an out-of-court compromise, though with certain conditions.

Asked to comment on the change in Nirmohi Akhara’s stand, All India Akhara Parishad chief Mahant Gyan Das blamed it on Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) vice president Vinay Katiyar.

“It is all because of Vinay Katiyar that the Nirmohi Akhara has altered its stand. It appears that Katiyar has poisoned the mind of Mahant Bhaskar Das,” he said.

Gyan Das, who strongly championed keeping politicians out of the amicable settlement process, alleged Katiyar had vested interests.

“Having been a MP from the area in the past, Katiyar knows that he could continue to get political mileage out of the issue only as long as it was allowed to simmer,” he said, referring to Katiyar’s stint as Faizabad MP.

Earlier this week, Katiyar told mediapersons in Ayodhya that no out-of-court settlement on the issue was possible until Muslims abdicated their claim even to the one-third portion of the disputed site.

Nirmohi Akhara wants Kalam, Deoband in Ayodhya mediation

Nirmohi Akhara, a main plaintiff in Ayodhya title suits, wants mediation of former President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband and Jamiat Ulema Hind along with Hindu religious leaders like Baba Ramdev and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and Murari Bapu.

Pujari Ram Das, special emissary of the ailing chief of Nirmohi Akara Mahant Bhaskar Das, said “we have lighted a candle of peace from Ayodhya and now it is also the responsibility of those people who command respect in their communities and general society of India to protect it and to spread it“.

Naming Abdul Kalam, Darul Uloom of Deoband, national organization of Muslim Ulemas Jamiat Ulema Hind, Pujari Ram Das said “it is our joint responsibility to establish peace in India. So, people from Muslim society and Hindu saints like Baba Ramdev, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and Murai Bapu, who have great following among the masses, must join hands to resolve the Ayodhya dispute”.

Asked what is the proposed formula of negotiations, Pujari Ram Das replied that it is yet to be discussed and planned.

“When great brains unite, the formula that will be worked out will also be great and will play a crucial role in establishing peace and Hindu-Muslim brotherhood in India”, said Pujari Ram Das.

Nirmohi Akhara ready for out-of-court settlement

Close on the heels of the initiative taken by 90-year-old Hashim Ansari for a negotiated settlement on the Ayodhya issue, the Nirmohi Akhara too has expressed its inclination to talk and resolve the dispute once and for all.

“I welcome the initiative taken by Mahant Gyan Das and Hashim Ansari and will be only too glad to be a party to the move for bringing the dispute to an amicable settlement and avoid another unending court battle,” Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das said.

Significantly, while Ansari was the first Muslim to stake a legal claim to the Babri Masjid after it was usurped by Hindu mobs on the night of Dec 22-23, 1949, it was the Nirmohi Akhara which sought legal right to offer prayers at the disputed site way back in 1885.

It was Ansari who took the first step towards initiating a process of reconciliation instead of proceeding straight to the country’s apex court in appeal against the Sep 30 order of the Allahabad High Court.

The court split the disputed land into three parts – one going to the contending Muslim group and the other two to be shared by two Hindu groups involved in the legal battle.

Ansari’s talks with Mahant Gyan Das, president of All India Akhara Parishad and head of Ayodhya’s Hanuman Garhi temple, on Sunday helped in breaking the ice.

And what followed Monday was yet another positive move, with Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das too expressing his desire to join the reconciliation bandwagon.

Bhaskar Das, 81, said he was confident that very soon many prominent holy men of Ayodhya would join the dialogue process with local Muslims and other contestants in the case.

While he declined to divulge the names of those with whom he claimed to have got in touch, sources close to him confirmed that he had mooted the idea to a few leading Ayodhya holy men.

They include Mahant Nrtiya Gopal Das, who heads the Ram Janmbhoomi Trust, the body entrusted with the task of building the proposed temple.

The move is likely to witness much opposition from the Sunni Central Waqf Board, whose counsel and Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) convenor Zafaryab Jilani has taken serious affront to Hashim Ansari’s initiative.

“Ansari is just an individual litigant; he is no authority on behalf of the Waqf Board which is the key contestant,” he said.