"The faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed,” it said, holding that the Allahabad High Court in 2010 was “wrong in dividing the disputed site into three parts”.
Settling a fractious issue that goes back more than a century, the Supreme Court in a historic verdict on Saturday backed the construction of a Ram temple by a government Trust at the disputed site in Ayodhya, and ruled that an alternative five-acre plot must be found for a mosque in the Hindu holy town.
Delivering a unanimous verdict, the five-member Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, CJI-designate SA Bobde, Justices DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer held that the faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the site was undisputed, while ruling that a temple would be built at the 2.77-acre disputed land. “The faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed,” it said, holding that the Allahabad High Court in 2010 was “wrong in dividing the disputed site into three parts”. The HC had allotted two-thirds of the land equally among the three parties in the dispute — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Ram).
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“…the 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 Chief Justice, who read the 1045-page judgment, said, while ruling in favour of Ram Lalla Virajman.
The Centre has been given three months to finalise a scheme and set up the Trust. “Possession of inner and outer courtyard shall be handed over to the board of trustees,” the court said, adding that the 2.77-acre plot would remain in custody of the official receiver till the Centre forms a Trust to take over the land.
Yet, it is also clear that the destruction of the 16th century three-domed structure by Hindu kar sevaks, who want to build a Ram temple there, was a wrong that “must be remedied”, the ruling said.
The judgment said it is not concerned with faith and belief, and instead treated the case as a title dispute over land.
The dispute over the site of Babri Masjid, a three-domed mosque built by or at the behest of Moghul emperor Babur, dates back centuries with Hindus contending that the invading Muslim armies had razed an existing Ram temple to erect the mosque. However, it turned into a legal dispute in 1885 when a mahant went to court seeking permission to build a canopy outside the mosque. The plea was dismissed. In December 1949, unidentified miscreants spirited an idol of Lord Ram into the mosque. The structure was destroyed by a large mob of kar sevaks on December 6, 1992.
“The dispute is over immovable property. The court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence,” the judgment said, delivered at the end of a marathon 40-day hearing — the second-longest in the history of the apex court. “The fact that there lay a temple beneath the destroyed structure has been established by the Archaeological Survey of India and the underlying structure was not an Islamic structure. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the mosque before 1857,” it said.
The court also went on to say that the Constitution must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied. “Justice would not prevail if the court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law.”
To remedy that wrong, the court asked the Centre to allot a five-acre plot in a “prominent” location in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh for constructing a new mosque.
There were no reports of violence or unrest from Ayodhya, where a massive police force was deployed, or any other part of the country. Relief appeared to be the overwhelming emotion in Ayodhya as its residents said the verdict has heralded a new dawn and brought closure to a lingering dispute.