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SC reserves Ayodhya order after high drama in court

Last updated on: October 16, 2019 21:51 IST

The concluding day of the marathon hearing was marked by high drama when Rajeev Dhawan, counsel for the Muslim parties, tore a pictorial map purportedly showing the exact birth place of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday wrapped up the 40-day hearing in the decades-old temple-mosque dispute in Ayodhya -- the second longest proceedings in its history -- and reserved its verdict in the politically sensitive case that is expected in a month's time.

The concluding day of the marathon hearing during which Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heading a five-judge Constitution bench observed 'enough is enough' was marked by high drama when Rajeev Dhawan, a senior counsel for the Muslim parties, tore a pictorial map provided by Hindu Mahasabha purportedly showing the exact birth place of Lord Ram in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

 

The high voltage hearing in the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute involving 2.77 acres of land is the second longest after the landmark Keshvanand Bharti case in 1973 during which the proceedings for propounding the doctrine of basic structure of the Constitution continued for 68 days.

The hearing on the validity of Aadhaar scheme lasted for 38 days in the top court which came into existence in 1950.

The bench, also comprising S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, came out with schedules for hearing more than once and the arguments, which were first fixed to be concluded by October 18, was advanced to October 17, but on Wednesday, it decided to wrap it up saying 'enough is enough'.

The bench is racing against time since the verdict has to be delivered before Justice Gogoi demits office on November 17.

It also granted three days to contesting parties to file written notes on 'moulding of relief' or narrowing down the issues on which the court is required to adjudicate.

The hearing was marked by heated exchanges between the lawyers of the Hindu and Muslim sides and midway the issue of settling the dispute through mediation once again cropped up.

The first mediation bid failed to find an amicable resolution leading to the commencement of day-to-day hearing from August 6.

Later, the panel, which comprised F M I Kallifulla, a former apex court judge, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of Art of Living Foundation and Sriram Panchu, an acclaimed mediator, was allowed to continue mediation proceedings. The panel was believed to have submitted its report to the court on Wednesday.

Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim parties, created a flutter after he took strong objection to senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for a faction of All India Hindu Mahasabha (AIHM), relying on a site map and books written by foreign and Indian authors to buttress claims that the central dome of the now demolished structure was the birthplace of the deity and asked the bench as to what he should do with it (map).

The bench said he can shred the documents into pieces. Dhavan then tore the pictorial map in the courtroom.

The drama did not end and during the post-lunch session, Dhavan made a reference to his action and said 'outside the court, it has become viral'.

"The news that has become viral is that I on my own tore the papers," he said.

Dhavan said he had asked and sought the permission of the bench whether those papers can be thrown and the reply from the CJI was 'if it is irrelevant, you can tear it'.

"The CJI said I could shred the papers and I just followed the order. I take advice of Mr (Arvind) Datar(a senior advocate) in such matters and he told me it was a mandamus (a kind of writ or direction)," Dhavan said.

The CJI shot back saying, "Dhavan is right that the chief justice said, so he tore up. Let this clarification also be widely reported."

The top court is hearing the Ayodhya case, in which the first lawsuit was filed way back in 1950 by Gopal Singh Visharad, and it has been an unique land dispute where representative lawsuits were allowed to be filed by Hindu and Muslim parties.

A battery of lawyers representing Hindu litigants, including the deity through next friend, a Hindu worshipper and Nirmohi Akhara relied upon arguments which also included the faith and belief 'since time immemorial' that Lord Ram took birth under the central dome of the now demolished structure.

Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992 by kar sevaks sparking communal riots that claimed several lives.

Hindu parties, which argued for 17 days at the start of hearing, submitted that as the deity and birth place were the juridical persons, they had the title over the entire 2.77 acre disputed land and any division of property would amount to mutilation of deity itself.

Terming construction of mosque by Babur nearly 433 years ago as a 'historical wrong', Hindu parties led by former Attorney General and senior advocate K Prarasaran and C S Vaidyanathan said this needed to be reparated as Muslims can pray in any mosque in Ayodhya, but for Hindus, this was only birth place of Lord Ram which cannot be altered.

They also relied upon the archaeological evidence which had found that there were traces of 12th century temple beneath the disputed structure.

Muslim parties, led by senior advocates Rajeev Dhavan, Shekhar Naphade, Zafaryab Jilani and Meenakshi Arora, vehemently argued that the mosque was built by Mir Baqi on a vacant land and Hindus do not have any right over it, even if it is proved that there existed a temple before the construction of Masjid.

The key arguments of Muslim side have been -- 'once a mosque, always a mosque' -- and the dedication of the land as Wakf to the almighty was irrevocable and they perfected the title by long use.

Hindu parties relied on archaeological evidence and responded to Muslim parties by saying 'once a temple, always a temple' and claimed if Muslims have pleaded adverse possession then it squarely amounted to the admission that the temple or the deity was the prior owner.

Judges to sit in chambers on Thursday

The members of the five-Judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will sit 'in chambers' on Thursday.

A notice in this regard has been issued by the Supreme Court saying that Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and four other judges will sit in chambers, where parties involved are not allowed.

'Take notice that on Thursday the October 17, the Chief Justice, Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer will sit in chambers,' the notice said.

Decades-old dispute

The following is the chronology of events in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in Ayodhya.

1528: Babri Masjid built by Mir Baqi, commander of Mughal emperor Babur.

1885: Mahant Raghubir Das files plea in Faizabad district court seeking permission to build a canopy outside the disputed structure. Court rejects the plea.

1949: Idols of Ram Lalla placed under central dome outside the disputed structure.

1950: Gopal Simla Visharad files suit in Faizabad district court for rights to worship the idols of Ram Lalla. Paramahansa Ramachandra Das files suit for continuation of worship and keeping the idols.

1959: Nirmohi Akhara files suit seeking possession of the site.

1981: UP Sunni Central Waqf Board files suit for possession of the site.

Feb 1, 1986: Local court orders the government to open the site for Hindu worshippers.

Aug 14, 1989: Allahabad HC orders maintenance of status quo in respect of the disputed structure.

Dec 6, 1992: Babri Masjid demolished.

Apr 3, 1993: 'Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act' passed for acquiring land by Centre in the disputed area. Various writ petitions, including one by Ismail Faruqui, filed in Allahabad HC challenging various aspects of the Act. SC exercising its jurisdiction under Article 139A transferred the writ petitions, which were pending in the High Court.

Oct 24, 1994: SC says in historic Ismail Faruqui case mosque was not integral to Islam.

Apr, 2002: HC begins hearing on determining who owns the disputed site.

Mar 13, 2003: SC says, in the Aslam alias Bhure case, no religious activity of any nature be allowed at the acquired land.

Sep 30, 2010: HC, in a 2:1 majority, rules three-way division of disputed area between Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

May 9, 2011: SC stays HC verdict on Ayodhya land dispute.

Mar 21, 2017: CJI J S Khehar suggests out-of-court settlement among rival parties.

Aug 7: SC constitutes three-judge bench to hear pleas challenging 1994 verdict of the Allahabad HC.

Feb 8, 2018: SC starts hearing the civil appeals.

Jul 20: SC reserves verdict.

Sep 27: SC declines to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench. Case to be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29.

Oct 29: SC fixes the case for the first week of January before an appropriate bench, which will decide the schedule of hearing.

Dec 24: SC decides to take up petitions on case for hearing on January 4, 2019.

Jan 4, 2019: SC says an appropriate bench constituted by it will pass an order on January 10 for fixing the date of hearing in the title case.

Jan 8: SC sets up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the case headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud.

Jan 10: Justice U U Lalit recuses himself prompting SC to reschedule the hearing for January 29 before a new bench.

Jan 25: SC reconstitutes 5-member Constitution Bench to hear the case. The new bench comprises Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

Jan 29: Centre moves SC seeking permission to return the 67-acre acquired land around the disputed site to original owners.

Feb 26: SC favours mediation, fixes Mar 5 for order on whether to refer matter to court-appointed mediator.

Mar 8: SC refers the dispute for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kallifulla.

Apr 9: Nirmohi Akhara opposes in SC Centre's plea to return acquired land around Ayodhya site to owners.

May 9: 3-member mediation committee submits interim report in SC.

May 10: SC extends time till Aug 15 to complete mediation process.

Jul 11: SC seeks report on 'progress of mediation'.

Jul 18: SC allows mediation process to continue, seeks outcome report by Aug 1.

Aug 1: Report of mediation submitted in sealed cover to SC.

Aug 2: SC decides to conduct day-to day hearing from Aug 6 as mediation fails.

Aug 6: SC commences day-to-day hearing on the land dispute.

Oct 4: SC says it will wrap up hearing on Oct 17, judgment by Nov 17. SC directs UP govt to provide security to state Waqf Board Chairperson.

Oct 16: SC concludes hearing; reserves order.

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