The Supreme Court of India unanimously declared that the land where once Babri Masjid stood belongs to upper-caste Hindu deity Ram Lalla. The five-judge bench of the court held that the land belongs to Hindus. It also ordered that a piece of up to five acres of land would be given to the Sunna-Muslim Waqf Board. The verdict was read Chief Justice by Ranjan Gogoi, thus bringing an end to the legal battle around Babri Masjid. The bench comprised Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.
Muslim organizations had already stated that they would accept the Supreme Court decision. However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Saturday said the verdict “neither provided equity nor justice”, and that the body might consider filing a review plea in the coming days. Addressing media outside the premises of the apex court, AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jilani said, “The verdict says a lot of things about the Constitution and secularism. We are very dissatisfied with this judgment. Article 142 does not let you do this.”
Raising objections to certain parts of the verdict, Jilani said, “We are dissatisfied that the inner courtyard where prayers were offered was given to the other side. Neither equity nor justice has been served.”
“As per the Sharia law, we cannot give away a mosque; however, we will abide by the court’s verdict. There is no evidence of what happened on that land between the 12th century and 1528. The Hindus claim that the temple was present since the Vikramaditya era but there is no evidence on that,” he added.
On the allocation of a separate land for the Muslims, the AIMPLB leader said the decade-long dispute was about the mosque and not about land. “You cannot exchange land for a mosque; it was not about land but a mosque. They have accepted that placing the idols in 1949 was desecration but the decision has still favored the other party,” he said.
Jilani also said that certain parts of the judgment “give an impression of further trouble in the future”.
Appealing for peace across the country, the Muslim leader said, “This is not somebody’s defeat or victory. We will adopt whatever legal course is possible. We appeal to everyone to maintain peace.”
The AIMPLB secretary, however, acknowledged that “parts of the judgment are very important for the secular fabric of the country”. “We may file a review petition but we cannot say for certain now; a call will be taken after our legal team studies the judgment,” he said.
“We have a right to disagree with the judgment but will never say there was any pressure. Anybody can make a mistake. The top court has reviewed its judgment in many cases. If the working committee wants, we will go ahead with the review petition,” he added.
The court said that the disputed land will be given to the trust formed by the central government that will supervise the construction of the Hindu Temple on the 2.77-acre land. The Center will set up the Trust within three months and will take over the management of the construction of the temple. In this trust, there will be an appropriate representation for Nirmohi Akhara.
The bench stated that the right of the deity, Ram Lalla, to the disputed property, will depend on the maintenance of law and order, for which, the government has to take measures.
The five-judge bench said that the Sunni Waqf Board also could not prove its exclusive right over the land and that the entire land had to be considered as a whole.
The court dismissed the plea of Shia Waqf Board, which challenged the order of a Faizabad Court from 1946. This order stated that the property was Sunni and not Shia.
The court also took cognizance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report of 2003, which stated that there was a structure underneath the Babri Masjid. While the report had been disputed, the SC held that this cannot be dismissed as conjecture and that the underlying structure was not a structure with Islamic origins. The ASI did not say whether a Hindu temple was demolished to build the mosque.
The SC held that the mosque was desecrated by placing the idols, and the demolition of the mosque in December 1992 was in breach of an SC order.
Furthermore, it stated that the Allahabad High Court was wrong in splitting the site into three and awarding one-third to each party.
The SC observed that the mere existence of a structure beneath the mosque cannot lead to a title today, even if the SC finds that it was a Hindu temple.
At the heart of the dispute is 2.77 acres of land, considered by Hindus to be the birthplace of Ram, the deity. In the 16th century, the Babri Masjid is believed to have been built at the contested spot by one of the generals of the Mughal king Babur.
Before the dispute went to the courts, both Hindus and Muslims were using the site for worship. While Muslims were holding prayers at the Babri Masjid in the inner courtyard, Hindus were using the outer courtyard.
In 1949, an idol of Lord Ram was allegedly placed inside the mosque by Hindu activists and the message was spread that Lord Ram had miraculously appeared inside the mosque. There was a protest from the Muslim side. Both Hindus and Muslims filed a civil suit each in the court. The government had to declare the premises ‘disputed area’ and lock the gates until further notice.
Cases were filed in the court by the Hindu side seeking permission for the right to worship the idol on the premises. The court held back the removal of the idol and allowed the Hindus to worship. The Nirmohi Akhara became a party to the dispute in 1959 and the Sunni Waqf Board joined in 1961.
On December 6, 1992, when volunteers of fringe Hindu groups demolished the mosque, more than 2,000 died in riots that ensued across the country.
A three-judge bench comprising of SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal, and Dharam Veer Sharma of the Allahabad High Court in September 2010 said that both Hindus and Muslims are joint title holders of the land. One-third was given to each of the parties — Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board. A total of 14 appeals were filed in the Supreme Court in four civil suits, and the apex court stayed the HC’s decision in 2011.
The majority of Justices Khan and Agarwal held that the spot where below the central dome under which the idols of the deities were placed should be given to the Hindus. The Nirmohi Akhara was assigned the Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi structures (located in the outer courtyard), while the rest of the land would be given to the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board.
Among the three judges, Justice DV Sharma was the dissenting judge, who held that the Hindus had exclusive rights of the disputed land. “The disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram,” he said.