THE Supreme Court on September 23, 2010 stayed the pronouncement of the Ayodhya title suit verdict for a week, giving the parties to the suit a final chance till September 28 to reconcile.
Interestingly, the Bench of Justices Shri RV Raveendran and HL Gokhale was initially divided over issuing notice on the petition filed by one of the title suit defendants, Ramesh Chandra Tripathi. The judges took time to reconcile between themselves before deciding to issue notice to the parties concerned with the case. The Attorney General of India has also been called for his views on September 28.
Due to differences in their opinion, the apex court judges directed the matter to be placed before the Chief Justice of India for constituting a larger Bench and referring the matter to it for hearing on September 21.
Making their dissent public in the order, the Bench stated, “One of the members of this Bench is of the view that the special leave petition (SLP) should be dismissed having regard to the fact that the judgement is reserved. Another judge is of the view that the order be stayed. As per tradition, when one (judge) wants notice to be issued and another is not in favour, the notice is issued.”
The apex court’s interim stay came despite the main contesting parties to the suit registering their strong protest. For the Sunni Wakf Board, senior advocate Anoop George Chaudhary said, “The proposal for reconciliation was first elicited from us (by SC) in 1994. It failed then and our stand has remained the same till today.”
The deferring of the verdict has created more uncertainty. The verdict either way would have helped to contain the angst over the six-decade delay in delivering justice in the matter. There should have been no politics on the issue. It seems the Congress by unnecessarily hyping the political temperature over the High Court decision to pronounce the verdict on September 24, created the atmosphere for this deferment. This could have been avoided. In any case the Hindus are not going to give up their claim on the Janmabhoomi. Any settlement can come only on honouring this basic premise. A timely verdict would have abetted unnecessary tension on both the sides.
Senior advocate Ravishankar Prasad, appearing for Mahant Dharamdas, one of the suit defendants, submitted, “In the last 10 years, four or five attempts were made to reconcile. Unfortunately, they didn’t succeed. And now a non-serious party, which has not attended the reconciliation proceedings before the high court, comes to the Supreme Court.” He requested the court to consider the consequences of the judgement not being delivered after a 60-year-long trial.
For petitioner Tripathi, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said the matter transcended the 20-odd parties to the suit. “There are voiceless people in this country who do not want this judgement to come about. If this court lends a soothing hand, there can be public opinion that can move the parties. After all, they also represent a vast majority of people.”
Convinced by the concern, Justice Gokhale said, “The consequences of this (judgement) are not to you (parties) but to ordinary people who are not party to the suit…Take this as an application by an ordinary citizen. Even if there is one per cent chance, you must give it a try.” The court also shared the apprehension that should anything happen after the verdict on Friday (September 24), the very same parties who now opposed reconciliation would turn around and point fingers at it.
Justice Raveendran, on the other hand, critically viewed the petitioner’s concern. “If you were able to have presence of few others (parties to the suit), at least we could have seen some bona fide in your conduct. You are not able to convince even one party….This should not be made a publicity exercise.”
When Shri Prasad pointed out that one of the judges in the three-judge Allahabad High Court Bench was due to retire on September 30, the apex court Bench was quick to point out, “That the Government of India can take care of.” One of the Bench members even hinted at the possibility of deferring the judgement for two months. But in view of the marked dissent in the Bench, the final order kept open the possibility for the high court to pronounce the verdict in the event the option of reconciliation failed.
Reacting to the deferment of Allahabad High Court verdict by Supreme Court on September 23, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said the entire Hindu society is shocked over the step taken by the apex court. In a press statement issued in New Delhi on September 23, VHP spokesperson Shri Prakash Sharma said, “It appears that Ramlala has once again been sentenced to exile to remain under tarpaulin.”
The statement said that the whole episode has once again strengthened the belief and proposal of the saints that the only solution to reconstruction of a grand temple at the birthplace of Sri Ram is enactment of a law in the Parliament.
“It is our firm resolve that we shall not stop till a grand temple is reconstructed at the birth place of Sri Ram in Ayodhya. The entire acquired land including the disputed premises, is the birthplace and kreeda sthali (play ground) of Sri Ram. We cannot accept any division in this land. The Hindu society will decide the future course of action as per the decision taken by the saints at the Uchchadhikar Samiti meeting to be held in New Delhi from September 24 to 25.”
“Crores of Hindus world over have been waiting for the reconstruction of a magnificent temple at the birthplace of Sri Ram. All the dialogues with Muslims during the last 450 years have proved futile. The judiciary too failed to deliver justice during the last 60 years. Now when the time for a verdict came, the Supreme Court by differring the pronouncement of the verdict has hurt the sentiments of Hindus. The birthplace of Sri Ram is not a property dispute it is a question of faith and trust of crores of Hindus and the asmita of the nation,” the statement said.