The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to refer to a five-judge constitution bench the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement that a mosque was not integral to Islam which had arisen during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.
In a majority verdict of 2:1, an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the civil suit has to be decided on the basis of evidence, adding that the previous verdict has no relevance to this issue.
Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the judgement for himself and the CJI, said it has to find out the context in which the five-judge bench had delivered the 1994 judgement.
Justice S Abdul Nazeer disagreed with the two judges and said whether mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering religious belief which requires detailed consideration.
He referred to the recent Supreme Court order on female genital mutilation and said the present matter be heard by a larger bench.
The apex court said now the civil suit on land dispute will be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29 as Justice Misra will retire on October 2 as the CJI.
The issue whether mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when a three-judge bench headed by CJI Misra was hearing a batch of appeals filed against the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict by which the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area was divided into three parts.
The three-judge high court bench, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered that the 2.77 acres of land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
Justice Bhushan said the earlier finding that mosque is integral to Islam was made in the context of land acquisition and all religions have to be respected equally by the State.
He said the constitution bench judgement was confined to acquisition of land.
Justice Nazeer said the questionable observation of 1994 verdict had permeated into the Allahabad High Court’s decision in land dispute case.
In this context, he also highlighted the observations of the high court judge S A Khan that mosque is not integral to Islam.