The Supreme Court in a unanimous verdict on Saturday cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.
In one of the most important and most anticipated judgements in India’s history, a 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the more than a century-old dispute.
The apex court said the mosque should be constructed at a “prominent site” and a trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.
The site was occupied by the 16th-century Babri mosque, built by Mughal empire’s founder Babur.
“The lands of our country have witnessed invasions and dissensions. Yet they have assimilated into the idea of India everyone who sought their providence, whether they came as merchants, travellers or as conquerors,” said the verdict.
“The history and culture of this country have been home to quests for truth, through the material, the political, and the spiritual. This Court is called upon to fulfil its adjudicatory function where it is claimed the two quests for the truth impinge on the freedoms of the other or violate the rule of law,” it said.
The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, said possession of the disputed 2.77-acre land rights will be handed over to the deity Ram Lalla, who is one of the three litigants in the case. The possession, however, will remain with a central government receiver.
The Supreme Court said the Hindus have established their case that they were in possession of the outer courtyard and the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board has failed to establish its case in the Ayodhya dispute.
Delivering its verdict in the politically-sensitive case of Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya, the apex court directed allotment of alternative land to Muslims to build a new mosque.
The apex court said the extensive nature of Hindus worshipping at the outer courtyard at the disputed site has been there, and the evidence suggests the Muslims offered Friday prayers at the mosque which indicates that they had not lost possession of the site.
It said that despite obstructions caused in offering prayers at Mosque, the evidence suggests that there was no abandonment in offering prayers.
The apex court further said that the underlying structure below the disputed site at Ayodhya was not an Islamic structure, but the ASI has not established whether a temple was demolished to build a mosque.
It said that terming the archaeological evidence as merely an opinion would be a great disservice to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The court also said that the Hindus consider the disputed site as the birthplace of Lord Ram and even Muslims say this about that place.
The faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed, the apex court said.
The bench said the existence of Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar grih are the testimony of the religious fact of the place.
The apex court said however that the title cannot be established on the ground of faith and belief and they are only indicators for deciding the dispute.
Fourteen appeals were 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.
Initially, as many as five lawsuits were filed in the lower court. The first one was filed by Gopal Singh Visharad, a devotee of ”Ram Lalla”, in 1950 to seek enforcement of the right to worship of Hindus at the disputed site.
In the same year, the Paramahansa Ramachandra Das had also filed the lawsuit for the continuation of worship and keeping the idols under the central dome of the now-demolished disputed structure.
The plea was later withdrawn.
Later, the Nirmohi Akahara also moved the trial court in 1959 seeking management and ”shebaiti” (devotee) rights over the 2.77 acre disputed land.
Then came the lawsuit of the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board which moved the court in 1961, claiming title right over the disputed property.
The deity, ”Ram Lalla Virajman”, through next friend and former Allahabad High Court judge Deoki Nandan Agrawal, and the Janmbhoomi (the birthplace) moved the lawsuit in 1989, seeking title right over the entire disputed property on the key ground that the land itself has the character of the deity and of a ”Juristic entity”.
Later, all the lawsuits were transferred to the Allahabad High Court for adjudication following the demolition of the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid structure on December 6, 1992, sparking communal riots in the country.
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 bench on October 16 had reserved the judgement after a marathon hearing of 40 days.