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Another important Hindutva agenda “Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi Temple” enters its last lap in SC.

Ayodhya dispute in Supreme Court: Another Hindutva agenda enters its last lap.

The Supreme Court began day-to-day hearing of the Ayohdya dispute on Aug 6. A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment in the case. This Day-to-day hearing is scheduled to dispose the matter by-November 17.

This comes after a Supreme Court-mandated mediation process failed. The three-member mediation panel submitted its report to the Supreme Court last week. The panel was subsequently dissolved on August 2.

The Ayodhya case is a title suit meaning the ownership of land where Babri Masjid existed and what is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram is disputed.

The high court had ruled for a tripartite division of the land among three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh that claims to represent the Muslims, the Nirmohi Akhara that claims to represent the Hindus and Ram Lalla, the idol which is considered as the child form of Lord Ram — equally.

The Supreme Court has to decide who owns the disputed piece of land. It depends on the answer to this question: Was Babri Masjid built over an earlier temple dedicated to Lord Ram?

Babri Masjid was demolished by hundreds of karsevaks (volunteers) who had gathered in Ayodhya in 1992 on a call given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, whose senior leaders of the time LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti.

The last verdict

In 1949, a Faizabad (now renamed as Ayodhya) court gave the first judgment on the Ayodhya title suite. The court ordered that all three parties, the Muslims, the Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara be declared joint holders of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title.

The matter moved to the high court, which gave its final verdict in September 2010. It broadly upheld the lower court’s decision and divided 2.77 acre land among the three parties.

While the lower court decision was largely based on the available land records and reading of the government order of the time, the Allahabad High Court order had another determinant. This was archaeological findings.

In 2002, the Allahabad High Court had ordered an underground survey of the site where Babri Masjid earlier stood. The survey was carried out by a private firm, which in its report to the high court in February 2003, pointed to presence of an earlier structure beneath.

This report formed the basis of the high court’s order to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in March 2003 for excavation of the disputed site to ascertain if the Babri Masjid was built on an earlier temple.

The ASI submitted its report in August 2003 telling the high court that evidence of a structure similar to north Indian temple was found beneath the Babri Masjid building. This report formed the basis of the Allahabad High Court’s majority conclusion that a temple existed before the Babri Masjid was constructed at the disputed site.

The three-judge bench of the high court, then, ordered for division of the land in three parts. This judgment was stayed by the Supreme Court in 2010 itself. Now, it has to hear around 15 parties on same matter before upholding, rejecting or modifying the high court judgment.

Day-to-day hearing for by-November 17 verdict?

Day-to-day hearing in the Supreme Court means arguments by the parties of the title suit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday every week. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for miscellaneous matters in the Supreme Court, which remains closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hold day-to-day hearing of the Ayodhya dispute has given rise to speculation that a seven-decade-old legal case will reach its conclusion by November 17. This is the date when CJI Ranjan Gogoi retires.

As per convention, a Supreme Court bench that hears a case also delivers verdict in the same case. If a judge retires before the case is adjudicated, a new bench is constituted and the matter is heard afresh.

The CJI-led bench has around 35 days – leaving out weekends and holidays through August 6 to November 17 — to dispose off the Ayodhya title dispute before Justice Gogoi retires. CJI Ranjan Gogoi has a reputation for quick disposal of cases which means nearly three dozen days could just be enough for final judgment in the Ayodhya title suit.

Leaving a legacy?

At least three of the last chief justices of India retired with judgments that are known as their legacy. Justice TH Thakur is remembered for cleaning up the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) through Justice Lodha committee.

His successor Justice JS Khehar’s bench declared instant triple talaq unconstitutional and the right to privacy a fundamental right. Justice Dipak Misra, CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s predecessor, led a bench of the Supreme Court that opened the doors of the Sabarimala temple for women of all age-groups.

Ayodhya title suit could be such a case for CJI Ranjan Gogoi. This case will have a definite bearing the issue of construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya’s disputed site — one of the three key Hindutva agendas of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The three agendas

The RSS and the BJP have been campaigning for construction of a Ram temple at the site where the Babri Masjid existed till 1992. Long-drawn court battle, many argue, held the full majority government of the BJP from enacting a law to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya during 2014-19.

Two other Hindutva agendas of the party – uniform civil code and abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 – have also seen progress in recent weeks. Parliament passed a triple talaq bill recently. It is being viewed as a step closer to uniform civil code.

Similarly, on Article 370, the Modi government has used the same Article to take away special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Resolutions for a Presidential Order in this regard were adopted by both houses of Parliament on Monday. The government also brought a Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation bill to turn the state in to two Union Territories of Ladakh (without legislature) and Jammu and Kashmir (with legislature).

Courtesy: India Today. This was first published on 06-08-2019.

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