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February 7, 2002
2109 IST

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Law ministry rejects VHP's claim on Ayodhya land

Shahid K Abbas in New Delhi

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad suffered a setback to its campaign to construct a Ram Temple in Ayodhya on Thursday, when the Union law ministry turned down its proposal to hand over 67 acres of government-acquired land to its 'original owners' citing legal compulsions.

The ministry is understood to have advised the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee against handing over the 67 acres of land in Ayodhya, acquired from the Ram Mandir Nirman Niyas by the Narasimha Rao government.

A top law ministry official speaking to rediff.com said that Ram Mandir Nirman Niyas forfeited its legal claim on the land after it was acquired by the government.

The law ministry's views were conveyed to the prime minister after he had deputed Union Law Minister Arun Jaitly to explore the legal pros and cons in returning the land to VHP, after a delegation led by Ashok Singhal met Vajpayee for 'facilitating' the handover of the land to its 'actual owners'.

Besides expressing the apprehension that the Niyas may finally occupy the disputed site and precipitate a communal crisis, the law ministry has also pointed out the helplessness of the Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court in hearing the title suit on a day-to-day basis due to paucity of judges in the Allahabad high court.

About 15 vacancies of judges currently exist in Allahabad high court and unless they are filled up, the court would not be able to take up the case on an urgent day-to-day basis, the prime minister was told.

Other than the prime minister, Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, Union Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, Union Urban Development Minister Anant Kumar and Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Uma Bharati have also been informed about the law ministry's views.

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