Ayodhya verdict: Balancing while condemning the 1992 demolition


    The balancing done by the Supreme Court needs to be seen in the backdrop of the already enacted Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

    By Rakesh Dwivedi

    The award of 2.77 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya to Hindus for construction of Ram Temple and 5 acres of land to Muslims for construction of Mosque is how the Supreme Court balanced the Hindu and Muslim entitlements on the basis of better evidence in favour of Hindus.

    “Possessory claims of Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing” is the decisive observation for awarding 2.77 acres to the Hindus. For the time being land would be held by receiver. The Government of India is directed to formulate a scheme within 3 months forming a trust for construction of Temple. Possession of disputed land would vest in Trust on its Constitution. Simultaneously, 5 acres would be handed over to the Sunni Central Wakf Board for enabling it to build a mosque. The long standing dispute has thus been settled.

    Importantly, the Supreme Court has in strongest terms castigated the damage caused to the mosque in 1934, its desecration in 1949 leading to the ouster of Muslims and the eventual demolition of the mosque on December 6,1992. It observes that they “constituted a serious violation of the rule of law”. It goes on to say "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" and "the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship. The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago."

    This is a strong condemnation of the political movement which led to demolition of the mosque. It was a grave wrong done to the Muslims. For rectifying this wrong the court exercised power under Article 142 of the Constitution, meant to enable doing of complete justice, by directing giving of 5 acres of land to the Muslim Central Wakf Board to build a mosque. With this balancing one would hope that a grand temple and a grand mosque would come up in Ayodhya and both pooja and namaz would go on peacefully and amicably.

    The balancing done by the Supreme Court needs to be seen in the backdrop of the already enacted Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 which seeks to preserve the religious character of a place of worship as it existed on 15.08.1947. Ayodhya dispute was kept out of its fold as an exception. If the balancing done by the Supreme Court can lead to avoidance of all other similar issues by raking up the wrongs of the past it may provided a good solution to the problem which is consistent with secular spirit of the Constitution. The judgment does well to record that “historical wrongs cannot be remedied by the people taking the law in their own hands” (Para 83).

    Since ages humans divided by ways of worship have remained in religious conflicts. The dominant powers owing allegiance to a religion have in various ways suppressed the other religions. India has had its own share of invasions accompanied by violence and demolitions of temples. However, its evolution has witnessed comingling of different faiths on its soil. Our freedom struggle too was inspired by the great Mahatma's “Ishwar Allah Tero Naam”. This search for unity became the foundation for our Constitutional secularism. The Constitution gives a right of worship to individuals according to their choice. So while God is one, one can approach or visualize him in different ways which may be sanctioned by their religions. Supreme Court has emphasized equality of faiths and religions as a sacred Constitutional value. Has this idea of India been preserved on account of the judgement would be long debated hereafter.

    Strikingly, the judgment rolls over in favour of Hindus on a slender basis. While it is found that Hindus have been worshipping in the inner courtyard and had exclusive possession of outer courtyard, the fact that mosque existed on the spot since the 16th century, and that Muslims were illegally ousted from worship in 1949 is also found to be established. Illegal ouster of Muslims would be of no consequence. Thus inner courtyard was in joint possession of Hindus and Muslims.

    Actually, the judgement denies restitution to Muslims which should ordinarily follow the finding of illegal demolition and desecration of mosque. The court takes the compensation route rather than restitution by invoking Article 142. It is better evidence of possessory title which seems to have titled in favour of Hindus. Landwise Muslims have got twice the land which was under the mosque, and it is to be at a prominent place in Ayodhya. In the circumstances Hindus and Muslims need to move forward and live in peace. Maybe Hindus, having demolished the mosque, should now voluntarily aid the construction of the mosque.

    (The author is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India)

    (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of
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