Day one of Supreme Court hearing the politically-sensitive case of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya concluded with petitioner Nirmohi Akhara telling the apex court bench that no Muslim was allowed inside the temple since 1934 and sought the control and management of the entire 2.77 acre disputed land.
The Nirmohi Akhara, one of the parties to the case, presented its case before the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi-led Constitutional bench and said that the structure has been in its exclusive possession.
The apex court, observing that the mediation efforts in the decades-old dispute had failed, took up the case for day-to-day hearings starting Tuesday. Before the arguments began, the bench, comprising Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice SA Nazeer, rejected the plea for recording the Ayodhya case proceedings as was sought by former RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya.
Nirmohi Akhara opens arguments
Counsel for one of the petitioners in the case the Nirmohi Akhara presented their arguments first on Tuesday. “We have been fighting for this for so long because it is an issue of emotions for us,” the petitioner said.
File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI
Senior advocate Sushil Kumar Jain, appearing for the Nirmohi Akhara, said that the “Ram Janmasthan” belonged to, had been the possession of, and was managed by the organisation. The lawyer also said that its suit in the case was basically for possession and management rights of the disputed region.
“I am a registered body. My suit is basically for belongings, possession and management rights,” he said.
‘No Muslims were allowed to enter the structure since 1934’
“Outer courtyard has always been in possession of Nirmohi Akhara, therefore suit of Nirmohi Akhara is limited to inner courtyard,” Jain was quoted by The Leaflet as saying. He added that the saffron organisation, one of the 14 akharas recognised by the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, had been occupying the inner courtyard for “hundreds of years”.
Staking a claim over the disputed 2.77 acres of land, Jain argued, “The place known as Ram Janmasthan was also in possession of Nirmohi Akhara.” While the five-judge Constitution bench asked questions to understand the “structure and locations” of the disputed site, the Nirmohi Akhara argued that its temples had been “demolished by some miscreants with no caste, or creed, or religion” on 6 December 1992.
Nirmohi Akhara, claiming that the Jhansi ki Rani was also “protected” by them after the battle of Jhansi when she “took refuge” at the temple in Ayodhya, claimed during its arguments that no Muslims were allowed to enter the structure since 1934 and it has been in exclusive possession of Nirmohi Akhara.
He also cited judgments to back his claim that “a place cannot be considered a mosque if no prayers or namaz are offered there.” Citing another evidence, the counsel said that absence of provision for ‘wuzu’, by which Muslims wash hands and feet before namaz, at disputed site was interpreted by the Allahabad high court to arrive at the conclusion that prayers were not being offered there for long and thus it had ceased to be a mosque.
However, in response, the Supreme Court cited the Allahabad’s high court’s order saying that before 1934, Muslims were offering regular prayers at the site.
CJI tells Rajeev Dhavan to maintain dignity of court
The ongoing hearing also witnessed a heated exchange of words between the bench and senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is appearing for a Muslim party. While the bench was asking the counsel for the Nirmohi Akhara to confine his arguments to the civil dispute and skip reading some written statements, Dhavan interfered and said perhaps there should not be any curtailment of arguments.
The CJI said the hearing of the arguments would not be curtailed in any manner and there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind about it. In response, Dhavan clarified that he meant the same.
At this, the CJI said, “Dr Dhavan, keep the dignity of the court.” Dhavan said he had only replied to some questions.
The bench told him, “Please keep in mind that you are an officer of the court and all we are saying is that we are not going to curtail anybody’s arguments.”
‘Ownership because of possession’
Justice Chandrachud, who has been hailed for being the only dissenting voice on crucial cases like the Aadhaar, questioned Jain over whether the basis of the claim of the Nirmohi Akhara to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land was possession or ownership, to which the counsel said, “Ownership because of possession.”
The Supreme Court, in reply said, “In any case, you have been given one-third of the disputed area in a preliminary decree by the Allahabad High Court.”
The daily hearings were prescribed by the Constitutional bench on 2 August after taking note of the failed mediation by a three-member panel led by former Supreme Court judge FMI Kalifulla. The mediation panel, also comprising spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, had said in its report that the Hindu and the Muslim parties had not been able to find a solution to the vexatious dispute.
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.
Give proof of the temple’s existence, says CJI
CJI Gogoi, reading from the Allahabad High Court judgment just before the bench took a break for lunch, quoted the statement and said, “There is no evidence to show that there existed any temple and that there were idols in it”. In response, Jain said, “My lords, the structure was demolished in 1992.”
However, Gogoi countered the claim by demanding evidence from the advocate, citing the Allahabad judge’s statement about there being “no evidence”. As the bench reconvened at 2 pm, Jain assured the judges that he will show “only the findings”. Continuing the arguments in the case, Jain emphasised on the “importance of worshipping the deity” at the “Ram janmabhoomi site”.
Reportedly reading relevant portions from the Allahabad High Court’s judgment in 2010, Jain said that the Nirmohi Akhara’s suit in the dispute was filed in 1959, “four years after the attachment orders were issued in relation to properties in their possession.”
The counsel for the Nirmohi Akhara, answering the Supreme Court’s questions on limitation, also said that the Sunni Waqf Board’s suit was filed in 1961. The hearing concluded for day 1 to resume tomorrow (Wednesday).
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Aug 06, 2019 16:35:12 IST
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