SIXTY years after Sri Ram’s idols miraculously appeared under the central dome of the Babri structure, the Allahabad High Court, in a judgement running into about 12,000 pages, paved the way for the construction of a grand temple at that very spot which is worshipped by Hindus as his birthplace.
The makeshift temple of Sri Ram at Ayodhya belongs to Hindus and the Babri structure was an illegal construction, this was the sum and substance of the historic judgement delivered by the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court.
Considering the sensitivity and emotion attached to the disputed land, the court came out with a balancing order that ruled that 2.77 acre land comprising the disputed site should be divided into three equal parts and be given to Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the party representing ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’ (Ram deity).
The majority 2-1 verdict of the court, comes after nearly 60 years of tortuous litigation over who holds the title to the disputed site. Still, the order may not be the last word and the issue may land up in the Supreme Court.
As an anxious nation awaited the court verdict in the highly-sensitive issue with lakhs of security personnel deployed in Uttar Pradesh and other sensitive places across the country, the order of Justices SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and DV Sharma became public just before 4.30 pm on September 30, amid high drama.
The judges wrote three separate judgements, but the majority verdict held that the area covered by the central dome of the three-domed structure where the idol of Sri Rama is presently situated belongs to Hindus.
The decision to apportion the land among Hindus, Muslims and Nirmohi Akhara was a majority verdict of Justice Khan and Justice Agarwal, while Justice Sharma, who was due to retire, gave a clear ruling favouring the temple.
With the majority view prevailing, the judges also made it clear that the place where the makeshift temple is situated (along with idols) will remain with Hindus where they can perform worship unhindered.
The Akhara was entitled to hold possession of Ram Chabutra, Sita Rasoi and Bhandar while Muslims would have to settle with the outer courtyard area of the 2.77 acre disputed territory. Sunni Central Waqf Board announced its resolve to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court. The HC even ordered status quo for three months, giving no rights to any parties to disturb the present position at the disputed area.
In deference to the widely-held belief about Ram’s birthplace, the court stipulated that the crucial area where a makeshift temple stands since 1992 be allotted to Hindus. This means the idols will remain where they are.
Thus, the separate judgments delivered by Justice S U Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal, constituting the majority opinion of the bench, have in effect allotted two-thirds of the disputed site to Hindus.
The dissenting verdict given by Justice D V Sharma, totally rejected the claims of Muslims on the ground that Babri structure had been built against the tenets of Islam and therefore could not be treated as a mosque.
Declaring that the entire premises belonged to Hindus, Sharma’s dissent held that the mosque had been built by Mughal emperor Babar after demolishing what was found by the Archaeological Survey of India to be a “massive Hindu religious structure”.
Given the difficulty involved in carving out a one-third share for Muslims from the remaining parts of the disputed site, the majority verdict of Khan and Agarwal clarified that a part of the outer courtyard which was in the possession of Hindus could be given to Muslims.
If that did not make up for the shortfall in the one-third share allotted to Muslims in the disputed site of 2.77 acres, the court envisaged the possibility of their being compensated with a portion of the adjoining 67.7 acres of land which had been acquired by the Centre in 1993 with the intention of providing access and facilities for both communities.
Justice Khan, who noted that there existed ruins of temple at the site where mosque was constructed, did not agree with the contention of Muslims that the same was built by Babar or by Mir Baqi. He noted that no temple was demolished for constructing the mosque but agreed with the popular belief that the disputed site was where lord Ram was born.
Justice Agarwal who concurred with Khan’s view, clearly held “the area covered by the central dome of the three-domed structure, i.e., the disputed structure being the deity of Bhagwan Ram Janmasthan and place of birth of Sri Ram as per faith and belief of Hindus belong to plaintiffs (party on behalf of Sri Ram) and shall not be obstructed or interfered in any manner by the defendants.”
He also observed that the area within the inner courtyard, except some portion, belongs to members of both the communities, Hindus and Muslims, since it was being used by both for decades and centuries.
Justice Agarwal said the open area within the outer courtyard shall be shared by Nirmohi Akhara and the party for Sri Ram since it has generally been used by the Hindus for worship at both places.
In his findings on issues, Justice Agarwal said the parties of the Muslim side have failed to prove that the property in dispute was constructed by Babar in 1528 AD.
Justice Sharma, writing a separate judgement, observed that the disputed site is the birthplace of lord Ram. “Place of birth is a juristic person and is a deity. It is personified as a spirit of divine worshipped as Sri Ram as a child. Spirit of divine ever remains present everywhere at all times for anyone to invoke at any shape or form in accordance with his own aspirations and it can be shapeless and formless also,” he said.
Differing with the other two judges, he also ruled that the disputed structure was constructed on the site of the old structure after demolition of the same. “The Archaeological Survey of India has proved that the structure was a massive Hindu religious structure,” he said.
He said the idols were placed in the middle dome of the disputed structure on the intervening night of December 22 and 23, 1949. With regard to the status of the disputed site, inner and outer courtyard, Justice Sharma said, “It is established that the property in suit is the site of Janmabhoomi of Ram Chandra Ji and Hindus in general had the right to worship ‘charan’, ‘Sita Rasoi’, other idols and other object of worship existed upon the property in suit.”
He said, “It is also established that Hindus have been worshipping the place in dispute as Janmasthan, i.e., a birthplace, as deity and visiting it as a sacred place of pilgrimage as of right since time immemorial.” He observed, that the disputed structure cannot be treated as a mosque as it came into existence against the tenets of Islam as it did not have any minarets and the building in question had images of Hindu gods and goddesses, thus indicating the presence of a pre-existing temple.
‘Used by both groups for ages’
While Khan declared that both Muslims and Hindus were “joint title holders in possession of the entire premises in dispute”, Agarwal held that only “the area within the inner courtyard” belonged to both communities as it had been used by them for centuries.
Khan and Agarwal also differed over whether a temple had been demolished to build the mosque. In Khan’s opinion, the mosque was built on the ruins of temples which had been lying in that condition for a long time. Agarwal, on the other hand, agreed with Sharma that a temple had been demolished to build the mosque.
Khan held that it was only after the mosque had come into existence did Hindus start identifying the disputed structure as the exact birthplace of Lord Ram. Before that, their belief about the birthplace “did not relate to any specified small area” in or around the disputed premises.
Since Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi came into existence long before the first legal dispute arose in 1855, Khan said Ayodhya for long displayed a “very, very unique and absolutely unprecedented situation” in which Hindu religious places were being worshipped inside the compound of a mosque.