Ayodhya, which literally means a place of no war, had seen the longest legal battle in human history. A battle for survival started in 1528 when an invader demolished a temple to establish a mosque. The matter went to court and remained pending there for 134 years. Finally the dispute was decided on November 9, 2019 by Supreme Court of India. The judgement runs into 1045 pages.
Read full judgement of Supreme Court here.
The legal battle which started on Jan 29, 1885 was transferred to Allahabad High Court with transfer of all pending suits on the disputed structure from Faizabad district court to itself. After prolonged trial in which Archaeological excavation was also ordered, the judgement of Allahabad High Court was delivered on Sept 30, 2010 in which claim of the parties was accepted and it was ordered that 1/3rd of the land may be given for construction of Mosque which was unlawfully demolished on December 6, 1992 by an errant mob.Remaining to be given to other claimants.
The detailed timeline of dispute is compiled by Times of India here.
The claim of the parties:
In appeal Supreme Court refused to adjudicate the matters of faith and decided the matter as a “property dispute“. None of the parties had title to the dispute. It was found that both the parties were performing prayers and Namaz at the respective sites. The Namaz was stopped after 1949 when idols were installed inside the mosque.
Supreme Court held that
“The High Court has adopted a path which was not open to it in terms of the principles formulated above. It granted reliefs which were not the subject matter of the prayers in the suits. In the process of doing so, it proceeded to assume the jurisdiction of a civil court in a suit for partition, which the suits before it were not.”
On faith, history and politics, it held:
“The facts, evidence and oral arguments of the present case have traversed the realms of history, archaeology, religion and the law. The law must stand apart from political contestations over history, ideology and religion. For a case replete with references to archaeological foundations, we must remember that it is the law which provides the edifice upon which our multicultural society
rests. The law forms the ground upon which, multiple strands of history, ideology and religion can compete. By determining their limits, this Court as the final arbiter must preserve the sense of balance that the beliefs of one citizen do not interfere with or dominate the freedoms and beliefs of another.”
It also reminded itself of it’s Constitutional duty in these words:
“Every judge of this Court is not merely tasked with but sworn to uphold the Constitution and its values. The Constitution does not make a distinction between the faith and belief of one religion and another. All forms of belief, worship and prayer are equal. Those whose duty it is to interpret the Constitution, enforce it and engage with it can ignore this only to the peril of our society and nation. The Constitution speaks to the judges who interpret it, to those who govern who must enforce it, but above all, to the citizens who engage with it as an inseparable feature of their lives.”
None of the parties had title to the land in question but both were performing their prayers at the site. It observed:
“…..On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it.
798. As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century. After the setting up of the grill-brick wall, the structure of the mosque continued to exist and there is evidence to indicate that namaz was offered within its precincts. The report of the Waqf Inspector of December 1949 indicates that Muslims were being obstructed in free and unimpeded access to mosque for the purposes of offering namaz. However, there is evidence to show that namaz was offered in the structure of the mosque and the last Friday namaz was on 16 December 1949. The exclusion of the Muslims from worship and possession took place on the intervening night between 22/23 December 1949 when the mosque was desecrated by the installation of Hindu idols. The ouster of the Muslims on that occasion was not through any lawful authority but through an act which was calculated to deprive them of their place of worship…………………………….. The Muslims have been wrongly deprived
of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago.”
As regards partition it observed:
“We have already concluded that the three-way bifurcation by the High
Court was legally unsustainable. Even as a matter of maintaining public peace
and tranquillity, the solution which commended itself to the High Court is not
feasible. The disputed site admeasures all of 1500 square yards. Dividing the
land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting
sense of peace and tranquillity.”
There is a misinformation being spread that the Supreme Court has given a majoritarian verdict or something. This is purely evil. The relief given by Supreme Court is a routine verdict in such cases.This is the reasoning for relief:
“Suit 5 has been held to be maintainable at the behest of the first plaintiff (the deity of Lord Ram) who is a juristic person. The third plaintiff (next friend) has been held to be entitled to represent the the first plaintiff. We are of the view that on the one hand a decree must ensue in Suit 5, Suit 4 must also be partly decreed by directing the allotment of alternate land to the Muslims for the construction of a mosque and associated activities. The allotment of land to the Muslims is necessary because though on a balance of probabilities, the evidence in respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims, the Muslims were dispossessed upon the desecration of the mosque on 22/23 December 1949 which was ultimately destroyed on 6 December 1992. There was no abandonment of the mosque by the Muslims. This Court in the exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied. Justice would not prevail if the Court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure
of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law. The Constitution postulates the equality of all faiths. Tolerance and mutual co-existnce nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people.”
Finally it granted following relief:
“The area of the composite site admeasures about 1500 square yards. While determining the area of land to be allotted, it is necessary to provide restitution to the Muslim community for the unlawful destruction of their place of worship. Having weighed the nature of the relief which should be granted to the Muslims, we direct that land admeasuring 5 acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya. This exercise, and the consequent handing over of the land to the Sunni Central Waqf Board, shall be conducted simultaneously with the handing over of the disputed site comprising of the inner and outer courtyards as a consequence of the decree in Suit 5. Suit 4 shall stand decreed in the above terms.”
Why relief of alternate site:
There is a loud cry as to why Supreme Court did not order restoration of Mosque at the site? Please read the above extracted paragraph once again. It is their. The proof of Prayers of deity preceed the proof of offering of Namaz which started after 1857. Please notice the sentences in bold.
There is a special law in India called “Partition Act, 1895” which is unique in the world. It is based on a unique background of India which recognises the people’s attachment with the land and therefore in joint properties, endevour is to partition the property among co-owners. This has no application on above case but the principles for grant of above relief are same. Read more about it in my book on the subject:
“Law of Joint Property and its Partition: in India” by Sandeep Bhalla.
Article 142 of Constitution:
Article 142 of the Constitution provides that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India”
Therefore the Supreme Court has invoked these special powers to do complete justice in the matter and to also ensure that no dispute erupts in future which is very probable if both communities are forced to offer prayers at the same place.
Supreme Court is not a mere court of law, it is also a court of justice. In this case it has broken itself free from history and granted relief looking at future to ensure that there is complete end of dispute forever. It may not satisfy the Ego of both sides but that is immaterial. Justice solves problems and is never satisfactory to Egos.