The Supreme Court on Friday said it would wrap up hearing in the politically sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute at Ayodhya by October 17, a day sooner than the earlier schedule.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on the conclusion of 37th day of the hearing, fixed the schedule for the final leg of the lengthy arguments.
The Muslim side would complete the arguments on October 14, it said, adding that thereafter, two days would be granted to the Hindu parties to sum up their rejoinders -- October 16.
October 17 would be the last day for wrapping up the hearing when the parties will have to make the final arguments about the relief they are seeking, the court said.
The bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, had earlier fixed the deadline of October 18 to conclude the hearing.
The judgment in the matter is to be pronounced by November 17, the day the CJI will retire.
The bench gave an extra hour every day to the hearing this week, during which it did not allow the counsel for the parties to deviate from the time slot allotted to them.
The top court also warned the parties that no fresh evidence would be allowed to be placed before it and all the parties have to strictly make their rejoinders on the basis of the records and submissions made before the Allahabad high court.
The apex court on September 26 had asked both Hindu and Muslim parties to specify the time-frame for completing arguments in the matter and had said that there will not be any extra day for hearing after October 18 -- the deadline it had set on September 18.
It had said that there are holidays in October for Dussehera and Diwali and only one advocate of the four Hindu parties will be allowed to give the rejoinder arguments.
The apex court had on August 6 commenced day-to-day proceedings in the case as the mediation proceedings initiated to find the amicable resolution had failed.
The court had taken note of the report of the three-member panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, that mediation proceedings, which went on for about four months, did not result in any final settlement and it had to decide the matter pending before it.
The court, which had on March 8 referred the matter for mediation, had asked for in-camera proceedings to be completed within eight weeks, but later granted time till August 15 after the panel's earlier report said the mediators were 'optimistic' about an amicable solution.
The top court fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements, including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel should be forthwith arranged by the state government.
It had perused a report about the progress of mediation process till July 18 and said its contents will remain confidential.
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.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished, sparking communal riots in the country.
Dispute not settled as Hindus assert central dome as birthplace of Lord Ram: SC told
Meanwhile, the Muslim parties on Friday told the SC that they are not denying Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram but the dispute over the site could not be settled amicably as the Hindu side asserted that the central dome of the demolished mosque was the exact place where the deity was born.
They said that with the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992 at the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid site, the foreign perception of India's secularism and tolerance changed.
The Muslim side stated that one of the scholars had said that India is a bed of multiple civilization but now there is danger of the country becoming just a 'Hindu civilisation'.
The apex court was told by Muslim bodies in the case that though animosity is being raised against the Muslims, Ayodhya is a land where the Hindus and the Muslims have stayed together for centuries.
The bench was told by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim parties, that they have no dispute that Ayodhya was the birthplace of Lord Ram but Hindus insisted that the exact place of his birth was under the Central dome of the demolished mosque.
"No one including us are denying Ayodhya as the birth place of Lord Ram. This long standing dispute would have been settled long back, if it was accepted by the other side that he was not born underneath the Central dome.
"Hindus insisted that he was born under the Central dome of the mosque. Exact site is the core of the dispute," Dhavan said.
He told the bench that there was 'obstructionist defacement' of the Mosque even after the court had appointed a receiver after 1949.
"There had been obstructionist defacement of the Mosque during the period 1950 to 1990 when the court had appointed a court receiver. The pictures of former Faizabad deputy commissioner K K Naiyyar and Faizabad city magistrate Guru Datt Singh were drawn on the wall.
"At that time only Hindus were allowed permitted inside the disputed structure. This was illegal and in violation of the court orders," he said.
Elaborating on the obstruction defacement, Dhavan said, "You cannot paint the pillars of the disputed structure with vermilion where it becomes difficult to read the inscriptions even with a magnifying glass, trespassing to place the idols inside the mosque on December 22-23, 1949, putting pressure by taking out Rath Yatras in a pending case or harassing Muslims to prevent worship. Illegality was committed despite the orders of the court."
The senior counsel said religious endowment does not create title in favour of anybody and when Mughal emperor Babur came it was an idle land and there was no owner of the property.
The bench asked Dhavan to show some authoritative statement on attributing divinity to mosque and said that in Islam it is considered that only Allah is divine.
"Mosque is a place where you pray to Allah and when you pray five times in a Mosque, the benefits are great," Dhavan said, adding that communal divisiveness and illegality was blamed by the other sides on Muslims but it would also apply to them when they demolished the Mosque in 1992.
"Our case is not to trade allegations of communal divisiveness but to show the flagrant illegalities which are irrefutable in this case and go to the root of this case and are not denied, but celebrated," he said.
"With the demolition of mosque on December 6, 1992, the foreign perception of our secularism and tolerance changed," he said, adding, 'though animosity is being raised against the Muslims but Ayodhya is a land where Hindus and Muslim stayed together for centuries'.
The senior counsel said, "One of the scholars said that India is a bed of multiple civilization but now there is danger of the country becoming just a Hindu civilisation."
Dhavan said every Mosque is sacred to Muslims and in the 1989 they came out with a new concept by proposing deities as juristic person and a party to the title dispute to demolish and destroy the Mosque.
"Janmabhoomi as a juristic entity comes only in 1985 and specifically claimed in 1989, with intent to remove and destroy the existing structure. There was Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha, politicians and judges, who came out with a new concept", he said, adding that concept of juristic personality was alien to Vedas.
He also contradicted the claims of ancient India visitors in their travelogues that the Hindus worshipped at the site as Lord Ram's Janmsthan, and said they are nothing but story tellers who mostly relied on hearsay, as some said that mosque was built by Babur and some said that Aurangzeb.
"They (Hindus) placed the idols at the Ram Chabutra only in 1855. So what were they worshipping all along from 1855 to 1989. Every religious place does not become a juristic person," he added.
"It is manifest that, from 1858 the contested case of the Hindus was that prayer was to an idol," Dhavan said, adding that there is no reason why adverse possession, acquisition do not apply to this form of juristic personality.
He said whether a temple existed or was destroyed for a mosque will not affect the status of a mosque which existed for 500 years.
Dhavan without admitting stated that assuming that at one time there did exist a Hindu temple as claimed by the other side, since emperor Babur built a mosque on the disputed site some 433 years ago, the Muslims have perfected their title by adverse possession.