Four years of Ayodhya closure: Civil victory in court, and politics around it

A fair analysis of the Ayodhya judgment reveals that the Supreme Court delivered the judgment within the provisions of civil law and went out of its way to deliver justice.

| Updated: 31 December, 2023 5:58 pm IST
Four Years of Ayodhya Closure: unraveling the Land dispute's legal and political landscape ahead of Ram Lalla's Pran Pratishtha ceremony

As the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be heading the praan pratishta ceremony of Ram Lalla in the Ayodhya temple on 22nd January, the judgment of M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs Vs Mahant Suresh Das & Ors is refreshed here as to how it gave closure to a 500 years old dispute. While many paint the judgment in hues of politics and religion, former Supreme Court Justice Ashok Bhushan reflected well on it when he said that “Ayodhya was not an inter-religious dispute and that notion is a misnomer. It basically was a land dispute between two communities claiming their worshipping rights on it…. and it had to be decided on the basis of evidence.”

As expected, there was criticism and aspersions on judges as it is not in the interest of politics to find closure to disputes and controversies. A fair analysis of the Ayodhya judgment reveals that the Supreme Court delivered the judgment within the provisions of civil law and went out of its way to deliver justice. Though it would have been perfectly in its legal realm to decree the disputed land to the Hindus, it took the pain to exercise its extraordinary curative jurisdiction under Article 142 to allot an alternate plot of 5 acres to Muslims as a restitutional remedy and give shebait rights to Nirmohi Akhara considering its historical presence in the disputed vicinity despite holding that their suit was barred by limitation. Anything that leaves dispute open can’t be justice!

Dispute discord: 

The disputed land comprised of 1500 square yards which was divided by a grill brick-wall by Britishers in 1857 to maintain law and order in view of recurring communal disharmony between the Hindu and Muslim sects both of which claimed right over it. This wall divided this composite land of 1500 sq yards into an inner sanctorum having three domed structures where Babri masjid existed but Hindus claimed to be janam esthan of Bhagwan Ram, and outer courtyard where Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi existed. There has been no “principal denial” by Muslims to exclusive and continuous possession of outer courtyard by Hindus, it was only the inner courtyard which was site of contest between the communities. It is this conflagration which resulted in filing of 5 suits between 1950 and 1989 in the district court of Faizabad, UP which found closure in the Ayodhya judgment.

Allahabad HC Verdict:

The High Court held that the suits filed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara were barred by limitation. Despite having held that those two suits were barred by time, the High Court held in a split 2:1 verdict that the Hindu and Muslim parties were joint holders of the disputed premises and each of them was held entitled to one third of the disputed property. The Nirmohi Akhara was granted the remaining one third. A preliminary decree to that effect was passed in the Suit 5. This would have perpetuated the dispute to eternity.

Myth around Ayodhya judgment:

It is argued by critics that the Supreme Court didn’t take cognisance of the fact that Hindu parties failed to prove that the disputed land is the site of janma esthan and yet upheld Hindus’ title to the land. Critics must know that the judgment decreed the suit 5 which sought declaration to title of the land and not suit 1 which sought right to worship on basis of it being the Ram Lalla janma esthan.

Section 9 of Civil Procedure Code bars suits of religious nature, for which the appropriate remedy lies under Article 226 and 32 read with Article 25 of Constitution.

Section 9 reads: The Courts shall (subject to the provisions herein contained) have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred.

[Explanation I].- A suit in which the right to property or to an office is contested is a suit of a civil nature, notwithstanding that such right may depend entirely on the decision of questions as to religious rites or ceremonies.

The suits in contest in the judgment were of nature as embodied in Explanation I.

The SC gave closure to a civil dispute only. It didn’t conclude on the question whether the land in question was janma esthan of Ram Lalla. Justice Bhushan’s opinion that on the basis of corroborative evidence the land is janma esthan of Ram Lalla was dissected separate by an addenda to the judgment and hence the question was left unanswered.

Civil Victory to Ideological battle:

Now as the BJP govt sends invitation to the political dignitaries across party lines, it is argued by opponents that the govt is making it an ideological issue. Opposition leaders are in dilemma whether to attend the praan pratishta ceremony or not.
State is a territorial entity administered by govt. Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has sent invitation to the political entities across party lines including the Prime Minister. Going by the argument if BJP govt is politicising the establishment ceremony, the opposition is politicising it by denying the invitation.

The SC brought peace by giving the dispute civil closure, people accepted the verdict, surprisingly, there were no communal riots post the verdict. The opposition is not able to understand that besides ideological victory, the govt has turned it into a mega economic event by preceding the praan pratishta ceremony by inauguration of development and infrastructure projects worth Rs 15700 crore including inaugurating an international airport in Ayodhya. When Statue of Unity was built, opposition had attacked the govt of indulging into identity politics around freedom fighters.

It was more than identity politics. Within few years of the opening of Statue of Unity it has garnered revenue worth 116.31 crore and an economic ecosystem is established. It is wrong to say that the BJP govt is winning elections solely on religious overtone, it is offering more than that. Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor is another successful model of such package where ideology and economy combine. It’s not merely an ideological event.
(The writer is Delhi-based Lawyer)

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