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Posted at: Mar 14, 2018, 8:48 PM; last updated: Mar 14, 2018, 8:48 PM (IST)

SC to consider if its 1994 ruling in Ayodhya case needs a fresh look

Constitution Bench had ruled that mosque was not integral to Islam
SC to consider if its 1994 ruling in Ayodhya case needs a fresh look
Top court posted the matter for further hearing on March 23.

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 14

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to consider if its 1994 Constitution Bench ruling in the Ayodhya land acquisition case that place of worship was not integral to Islam required reconsideration by a larger bench.

A three-judge Special Bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra said before proceeding to take up the property dispute it wanted to decide the issue earlier raised by senior advocate Rajiv Dhavan that the court's ruling in Dr M Ismail Faruqui and Others versus Union of India needed reconsideration.

It was supported by senior counsel CS Vaidyanathan, representing Ram Lalla. The controversy should be put to an end, he said.

Dhavan  who is representing some of the Muslim parties -- had on December 5 last year requested the bench to refer the matter to a seven-judge Constitution Bench, saying the 1994 ruling by a five-judge Constitution Bench in the Ayodhya land acquisition case that mosque was not central to Islamic faith needed reconsideration.

The bench, which also included Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, however rejected the plea for sending the entire dispute to a Constitution Bench.

"Your submission is very ambitious," the CJI told senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, who is also representing some Muslim parties to the case.

It rejected all interim applications seeking to intervene in the case, except that of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, saying it in an appeal in a civil case no one could be allowed to join proceedings at this stage.

Many senior advocates, including Salman Khurshid and Arif Mohammad Khan, wanted the bench to allow their intervention applications on behalf of various parties, but counsel for Sunni Wakf Board, Ram Lalla and Nirmohi Akhara opposed their pleas on the ground that no third party could be allowed in a property dispute.

The bench chose to revive Swamy's writ petition which was earlier converted into an interim application and tagged with the main Ayodhya case and sent it to an appropriate bench. Swamy has contended that his right to pray is a superior right compared to appellants right to property (claim over the disputed land).

Swamy told the bench that it was on his plea that the hearing of the matter resumed. He said Ayodhya dispute was not a simple property dispute as it involved religious sentiments of 100 crore Hindus.

It posted the matter for further hearing on March 23.

The top court is seized of cross-appeals challenging the Allahabad High Court's September 30, 2010 verdict dividing the 2.7-acre disputed land at the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site equally between Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Wakf Board. All three chose to challenge the order before the top court. Besides, there are more than 10 other appeals as well.

Amid claims and counter-claims made by various Hindu and Muslim leaders over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, the Supreme Court had on February 8 refused to be drawn into the religious arguments, saying was only a property dispute.

"We are treating it only as a land dispute. There are appeals and cross-appeals," the bench headed had said after an advocate  who wanted to intervene in the matter said it involved sentiments of 100 crore Hindus.

Hindus believe that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya thousands of years ago. During Mughal emperor Babar's rule, a mosque was constructed at the place in 1528 after destroying the temples existing there. 

The RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and BJP have been running a campaign for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. On December 6, 1992, kar sevaks of right-wing Hindu organisations demolished the disputed structure. Many BJP leaders, including LK Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi, are facing a criminal case in connection with the demolition. 

But the civil dispute over 2.7 acres is a separate one that has been on since 1961 when the Sunni Waqf Board took the matter to court. 

The Shia Central Waqf Board, Uttar Pradesh, has claimed the demolished mosque was a Shia Waqf as Mir Baqi who got Babri Mosque constructed was a Shia Muslim. It has supported construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site where a makeshift temple exits at present, saying a Masjid could be built in a Muslim area.

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