Would be difficult to question faith of Hindus with regard to Ayodhya, says SC

New Delhi, September 23

It would be difficult to question the faith of Hindus with regard to Ayodhya as the birthplace of Lord Ram as even some Muslim witnesses have termed it sacred for the Hindus as Mecca is for them, the Supreme Court said Monday.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was questioning senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim parties, on whether the divinity and the “exact form” of an idol or a deity were necessary to hold that they have “juristic personality”.

“Even Muslim witnesses (during the trial) have said that Ayodhya to Hindus is as sacred as the Mecca is for them. It will be difficult to rebut the belief of the Hindus,” said the Bench which also comprised Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.

Dhavan, arguing for Sunni Waqf Board and others including original litigant M Siddiq, said that only belief cannot be the basis to claim title and accord juristic status to the ‘janmsthan’ (birth place).

He, however, strongly pitched for granting respect to Lord Ram and the Allah in a diverse country like India on the 29th day of the hearing in the politically sensitive case.

“If Lord Ram and Allah are not respected then this great nation will split apart,” said the senior lawyer but strongly objected to the move to make the birthplace as a party to the lawsuit filed on behalf of deity ‘Ram Lalla Viarajman’ for claiming juristic status for the sacred land.

At the outset, Dhavan tried to distinguish between the legal status of the deity and the birth place and said that the latter has been made a party with a sole aim to make a Ram temple at the site and to ensure that impediments such as law of limitation, adverse possession and acquisition do not come in the way.

“They just say Lord Ram was born here. None of the contours of the area are mentioned anywhere in the plaint. The suit is thus merely a vehicle to destroy and build a temple.

“They have argued that all existing structures be demolished at Ram Janmabhoomi and a new Temple be constructed there,” he said.

The Bench referred to vehement submissions of Dhavan that belief is very “tenuous” evidence and the Hindus should establish the long worship instead.

“Your (Dhavan’s) first claim is that belief is tenuous as evidence. But your second argument is that belief should be manifested by way of an object. What exactly is the object you are talking about,” the Bench asked. “Is it necessary for a deity or an idol to have divinity so as to make it a juristic personality?”

The senior lawyer said there should be “some” kind of physical manifestation of a deity or an idol and even if we concede to Hindus’ belief, then where are the “objective” aspects to support it. 

The Bench also asked Dhavan to provide a list of deities or idols which, as per earlier judgements, have been granted status of juristic personalities. He, however, expressed inability to do so saying that he will have to write 18 research papers for doing it.

“Assume that it (land) is the juristic personality and then what will be the consequences. Even assume that it does not have the juristic personality, then what will be the consequences,” the Bench asked, added whether same logic would apply in the case of public Muslim graveyards. 

“The dedication and the long use are the two criteria. A public wakf can be created on these two grounds,” Dhavan said.

He said that in the present case, the issue was whether the belief can be attached to an area to make a “vague” title claim, and if could be said that the mosque was illegal just because it was built on ‘janmbhoomi’.

He asked the Bench to lift the veil to see whether the birthplace can be treated as juristic person and reiterated his submissions that Hindus never had the access to the inner courtyard and they were praying at ‘Ram Chabutara’ in outer courtyard.

He rebutted the submissions that the lawsuit filed by the Sunni Wakf Board on December 18, 1961, was barred by limitation and said that the cause of action, if any, to file the case arose only on the intervening night of December 22-23, 1949 when the idols were allegedly placed below the central dome.

Dhavan also opposed the plea of some Hindu parties that they acquired title over the site on account of legal doctrine of “adverse possession” and said it presupposes the fact that the Muslims were the legal owner and Hindus were having “adverse possession” of the place.

“There was no idol in the inner area till 1949 and the mosque was never an abandoned mosque at any point of time. It might have, at best, been unused for some time. That is their (the Hindus’) best case,” he said.

Dhavan then summarised his rebuttal to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the deity. 

“The entire argument was based on belief from scattered sources such as Travellers accounts and Gazetteers which have been found to be inconsistent and inconclusive,” he said.

The Bench will resume hearing on Tuesday. 

The Allahabad High Court, in its judgment of 2010 on four civil lawsuits, had partitioned the 2.77-acre disputed land equally among Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the verdict. PTI