New Delhi, Nov 9: The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision on Saturday cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya – claimed both by Hindus and Muslims for nearly a century — concluding India’s longest-running historical, political, legal and socio-religious debate.
The top court also directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for a mosque at a ‘prominent’ site in the holy town. The court observed: “It is clear that the destruction of the 16th century three-domed structure by Hindu karsevaks, who wanted to build a Ram temple there, was a wrong that must be remedied.”
The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, said possession of the disputed 2.77-acre land would be handed over to deity Ram Lalla, or infant Ram, who was one of the three litigants in the case.
But “the right of Ram Lalla to the disputed property is subject to the maintenance of peace and law and order and tranquility,” said the five five judges.
The land, however, will remain with a central government receiver. The apex court asked the Centre to set up a trust within three months for construction of the temple.
“The faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure is undisputed,” the court said in its 1,045-page verdict in the politically-sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land case.
“The lands of our country have witnessed invasions and dissentions. Yet they have assimilated into the idea of India everyone who sought their providence, whether they came as merchants, travellers or as conquerors,” the verdict read.
“The history and culture of this country have been home to quests for truth, through the material, the political, and the spiritual. This court is called upon to fulfill its adjudicatory function where it is claimed the two quests for the truth impinge on the freedoms of the other or violate the rule of law,” it said.
The Supreme Court observed Hindus had established their case that they were in possession of the outer courtyard but the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board had failed to prove its argument in the dispute.
“The dispute is over immovable property. The court does not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence,” the judgment said, delivered at the end of a marathon 40-day hearing — the second longest in the history of the apex court. Justice Gogoi is due to retire on November 17.
“On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard has continued unimpeded even before 1857 when the British annexed Oudh region.”
“The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession” of the mosque before 1857,” the verdict read.
“The fact that there lay a temple beneath the destroyed structure has been established by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the underlying structure was not an Islamic structure,” the apex court judgment said.
It said terming the archaeological evidence as merely an opinion would be a great disservice to the Archaeological Survey of India.
The court also said that Hindus consider the disputed site as the birthplace of Lord Ram and even Muslims say this about that place. The faith of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure was undisputed, the apex court said.
The bench said the existence of Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar grih were testimony to the religious nature of the place.
The demolition of the 500-year Babri mosque on December 6, 1992 triggered nationwide communal riots that killed more than 2,000 people. Subsequently, Muslim extremists angered by the demolition and the riots, carried out a series of bombings in Mumbai on March 12, 1993, which left hundreds dead.
The three litigants in the case — the symbolic Ram Lalla Virajman, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board — had knocked on the top court’s door after a three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court in September 2010 distributed the land equally between them. The court had ruled 2:1 in favour of Hindus.
Of that judgment, the Supreme Court said: “The high court wrongly decided the title suit by resorting to partitioning of the disputed land in three parts. The disputed site was government land in the revenue records.”
The trifurcation of the disputed area was stalled by the apex court in May, 2011 after both Hindus and Muslims challenged the Allahabad High Court verdict on nearly ten broad points.
Of Saturday’s verdict, the litigants said:
“The verdict is very balanced and it is a victory of the people,” said C S Vaidyanathan, lawyer for deity Ram Lalla.
But the Sunni Waqf Board, one of the main parties, said it was not satisfied. “The verdict holds no value for us. It has lot of contradictions,” Zafaryab Jilani, lawyer for the Board, told reporters.
The Nirmohi Akhara said it had no ‘regrets’ about the verdict.
The Ayodhya dispute had over the decades launched several independent and government-sponsored initiatives to determine whether a Hindu temple existed beneath the 16th Century Babri Masjid that was pulled down by right wing activists on December 6, 1992.
Hindu parties have traditionally believed that the site was the birthplace of Lord Ram – arguing on the premises of archaeological evidence, faith and collective memory — while the Sunni Waqf Board argued the land where the Babri Masjid stood was waqf property.
There was unprecedented security in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday as well as other parts of India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said Friday that the judgment would not be anyone’s “victory or defeat” but “would give strength to India’s tradition of peace, unity and amity”.
On Friday, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also held a meeting with the chief secretary and top police officers of Uttar Pradesh and took stock of security arrangements ahead of the verdict.
Here is a brief history of the case:
Initially, as many as five lawsuits were filed in the lower court. The first was by Gopal Singh Visharad, a devotee of ‘Ram Lalla’’ in 1950 to seek enforcement of the right to worship of Hindus at the disputed site.
In the same year, the Paramahansa Ramachandra Das had also filed the lawsuit for continuation of worship and keeping the idols under the central dome of the now-demolished disputed structure. The plea was later withdrawn.
Later, the Nirmohi Akahara also moved trial court in 1959 seeking management and ‘shebaiti’ (devotee) rights over the 2.77 acre disputed land.
Then came the lawsuit of the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board which moved the court in 1961, claiming title right over the disputed property.
The deity, ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’, through next friend and former Allahabad High Court judge Deoki Nandan Agrawal, and the Janmbhoomi (the birthplace) moved the lawsuit in 1989, seeking title right over the entire disputed property on the key ground that the land itself has the character of the deity and of a ‘juristic entity’.
Later, all lawsuits were transferred to the Allahabad High Court for adjudication following the demolition of the disputed Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid structure on December 6, 1992, sparking communal riots in the country. The apex court had on August 6 commenced day-to-day proceedings in the case as the mediation proceedings initiated to find the amicable resolution had failed.
The bench on October 16 had reserved the judgment after a marathon hearing of 40 days.
A new dawn for us: PM Modi
New Delhi, Nov 9: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute should not be seen as win or loss for anybody, and appealed to countrymen to maintain peace and harmony.
In a unanimous verdict, the top court cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.
In a series of tweets in Hindi and English, Modi also asserted that the judgment clearly illustrates that everybody is equal before the law.
“Be it Ram Bhakti or Rahim Bhakti (devotion to Ram or Rahim), it is imperative that we strengthen the spirit of rashtra bhakti (devotion to the country),” he said, adding “the verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody.”
Noting that the temple of justice (the apex court) has amicably concluded a matter going on for decades, he said the SC verdict will further strengthen people’s faith in the judicial system.
“The calm and peace maintained by 130 crore Indians in the run-up to today’s verdict manifests India’s inherent commitment to peaceful coexistence. May this very spirit of unity and togetherness power the development trajectory of our nation. May every Indian be empowered,” he said.
“Every side, every point of view was given adequate time and opportunity to express differing points of view,” he said.
“The judgment is notable as it highlights that any dispute can be amicably solved in the spirit of due process of law. It (the verdict) reaffirms the independence, transparency and farsightedness of our judiciary. May peace and harmony prevail,” he tweeted.
Modi on Friday had also appealed to the people that the priority should be to strengthen India’s tradition of maintaining peace and harmony after the verdict is pronounced on Saturday.
“The Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya would not be a matter of victory or loss. My appeal to countrymen is that it should be our priority that the verdict should strengthen India’s great tradition of peace, unity and amity,” he had tweeted.
Later in the day, the PM while addressing the nation said that the verdict “has brought a new dawn for us.”
“Many generations may have been affected by the dispute but we must resolve that we make a new start for a New India,” he said.
“My dear countrymen! Today the Supreme Court has pronounced judgment on such a matter which has a historic background of several decades. The entire country felt that the case should be heard every day, and it was. That entire process is now at an end,” he said.
“The whole world already knew that India is the largest democracy but today it has been proven that it is also vibrant and strong,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister added that the way all categories of people “have accepted the verdict with open hearts, it shows the strength of our unity and national character.”
“After so many thousands of years, unity in diversity is very much in evidence. Today’s event and the way it has been played out will be a reference point. It is a golden chapter not just with respect to our unity but also our jurisprudence. SC heard everyone, with great patience, and to everyone’s satisfaction the verdict was unanimous,” said Modi.
He added that “November 9th was the day the Berlin Wall fell and two rival ideologies had united.”
“Today, we saw the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor. Ayodhya verdict on this day, therefore, is telling us that the message from the date is to be united in harmony and amity. Anyone holding onto any bitterness, I request that they too give it up,” he said.
“To move forward with the confidence that we don’t leave anyone behind,” he said.
Mr. Modi says “Now as a society, every Indian has to work by giving priority to his duty, his duty. The harmony between us, Our unity, Our peace, Very important for the development of the country.”
The Prime Minister says “Today, with the decision on Ayodhya, this date of November 9 has also given us a lesson to move forward together. Today’s message is to add — to join and to live together.” (Agencies)
Neither provided equity nor justice: AIMPLB
New Delhi, Nov 9: After a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court allotted the disputed Ayodhya land to the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said Saturday that the verdict “neither provided equity nor justice”, and that it may file a review plea in the coming days.
Addressing the media outside the Supreme Court, AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jilani said, “The judgment has just been pronounced, it says a lot of things about the Constitution and about secularism. We are very dissatisfied with this judgment. Article 142 does not let you do this.”
Jilani was a part of the board’s legal team that fought the case in the Allahabad High Court and subsequently in the apex court.
Raising objections to certain parts of the verdict, Jilani said, “We are dissatisfied that the inner courtyard where prayers were offered was given to the other side. Neither equity nor justice has been served.”
“As per the Sharia law, we cannot give away a mosque; however, we will abide by the court’s verdict. There is no evidence on what happened on that land between the 12th century and 1528. The Hindus claim that the temple was present since the Vikramaditya era but there is no evidence on that,” he said.
On the allocation of a separate plot of land for the Muslim community, Jilani said the decades-long dispute was about the mosque, and not about land.
“You cannot exchange land for a mosque; it was not about land but about a mosque. They have accepted that placing the idols in 1949 was desecration but the decision has still favoured the other party,” he said.
Jilani said that certain parts of the judgment “give an impression of further trouble in the future”.
Appealing for peace across the country, he said, “This is not somebody’s defeat or victory. We will adopt whatever legal course is possible. We appeal to everyone to maintain peace.”
The AIMPLB secretary, however, acknowledged that “parts of the judgment are very important for the secular fabric of the country”. “We may file a review petition within 30 days but we cannot say for certain now; a call will be taken after our legal team studies the judgment,” he said.
“We have a right to disagree with the judgment but will never say there was any pressure. Anybody can make a mistake. The top court has reviewed its judgment in many cases. If the working committee wants, we will go ahead with the review petition,” he added.
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Speaking on similar lines, advocate S R Shamshad said, “It seems that the court has exercised extraordinary powers to confer title, which we object to. This is a questionable judgment.”
He added, “It was necessary to fight this because we had to tell the world that we didn’t like the way the mosque was treated. We hope no future mosques will be touched; this is our expectation in a democratic country in a constitutional setup.”
Addressing the media later, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, who is also a member of the board, said: “In my personal opinion, we should reject the five-acre land because this is a legal fight. As former CJI Justice Verma said, the top court is supreme not infallible. This country is becoming a Hindu Rashtra, they have started with Ayodhya, and will follow up with NRC, Citizenship Bill etc to that end.”
A visibly disheartened member of the board’s legal team described the verdict as “arbitrary” and said: “Is there really any point in asking for the review of a unanimous judgment? There is nobody who has dissented”.
Jilani said: “Article 142 does not allow you (SC) to do this. The court said that there is evidence of a 12th century temple but nothing to show what happened to that land between then and 1528. The Hindu side, on the other hand, claims that the temple is from Vikaramaditya’s era who was a contemporary of Jesus Christ but did not give any evidence for that.”
CJI’s office comes under RTI, rules SC
New Delhi, Nov 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday held that the office of the Chief Justice of India was a public authority and fell within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict and dismissed three appeals filed by Secretary General of the Supreme Court and the Central Public Information officer of the apex court.
Cautioning that RTI could be used as a tool of surveillance, the top court in its judgment, held that judicial independence had to be kept in mind while dealing with transparency.
The bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said only the names of judges recommended by the Collegium for appointment could be disclosed, not the reasons.
While the CJI and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna penned one judgment, Justices Ramana and Chandrachud wrote separate verdicts.
It said that the Right to Privacy was an important aspect and it had to be balanced with transparency while deciding to give out information from the office of the Chief Justice. Justice Chandrachud said the judiciary could not function in total insulation as judges enjoy constitutional posts and discharge public duty.
Justice Sanjiv Khanna said independence of the judiciary and transparency went hand in hand.
Justice Ramana, who concurred with Justice Khanna, said there should be a balancing formula for Right to Privacy and right to transparency and independence of judiciary should be protected from breach.
The High Court on January 10, 2010 had held that the CJI office came within the ambit of the RTI law, saying judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.
The 88-page judgment was seen as a personal setback to the then CJI, K G Balakrishnan, who had been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.
The high court verdict was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah (since retired) and Justices Vikramjit Sen and S Muralidhar. The bench had dismissed a plea of the Supreme Court that contended bringing the CJI’s office within the RTI Act would ‘hamper’ judicial independence.
Justice Sen has retired from the apex court, while Justice Murlidhar is a sitting judge of the High Court.
The move to bring the office of the CJI under the transparency law was initiated by RTI activist S C Agrawal. His lawyer Prashant Bhushan had submitted in the top court that though the apex court should not have been judging its own cause, it was hearing the appeals due to the “doctrine of necessity”.
The lawyer had described the reluctance of the judiciary in parting information under the Right To Information Act as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘disturbing’, asking: “Do judges inhabit a different universe?”
He had submitted the apex court had always stood for transparency in functioning of other organs of State, but it developed cold feet when its own issues required attention. Referring to the RTI provisions, Bhushan had said they also deal with exemptions and information that cannot be given to applicants, but the public interest should always ‘outweigh’ personal interests if the person concerned is holding or about to hold a public office. Dealing with ‘judicial independence’, he said the National Judicial Accountability Commission Act was struck down for protecting the judiciary against interference from the executive, but this did not mean that judiciary is free from ‘public scrutiny’.
Transparency activists on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying the apex court had reiterated the established position in law in the matter.
“I welcome the decision of the constitution bench to reiterate the established position in law that the CJI is a public authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,” said Venkatesh Nayak, head of access to information programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO.
About the Supreme Court’s remark that RTI could not be used as a tool of surveillance, Nayak termed it as an “extremely unfortunate” observation. “Surveillance has unfortunately been equated with transparency that is required under a law duly passed by Parliament,” he told PTI.
Nayak said surveillance was what the government often does under executive instructions and that was not the purpose of the RTI Act. “People whose cases relating to their life, liberty, property and rights, are decided by the high courts and the Supreme Court. People have the right to know not only the criteria but all material that formed the basis of making the decision regarding appointments of judges in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act,” he said.
Nayak said where exemptions were available under the RTI Act, they would be legitimately invoked by public authorities and all other information should be in the public domain. He said the appointment of judges, who were public functionary, was a public act.
“People have the right to know everything that is done in a public way by a government, in a democratic country, which must be accountable and responsible,” Nayak said. Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi also hailed the top court’s decision. “I had expected the same decision to come as logically there was nothing else. It is unfortunate that this has taken 10 years. The CIC has upheld this. The Delhi HC had also upheld this. Now, the SC has upheld this. All public servants that are paid by the government are a public service, no matter what the position is. You need to be accountable for your work. I congratulate the Chief Justice and the court for having given such a decision,” he said.
RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal lauded the top court’s verdict. “I welcome the Supreme Court’s verdict. It is a victory of the RTI Act,” he said.
Another activist Ajay Dubey said the apex court’s decision was ‘historic’. “It is a historic decision and I welcome it. All decisions made by a public authority must be in public domain and under the RTI Act,” he said.
Dubey, however, expressed shock over the top court’s remark that the RTI Act cannot be used as a tool of surveillance.
Shopkeeper shot dead in Tral
Srinagar, Nov 13: Unidentified gunmen shot dead a shopkeeper at Tral in South Kashmir’s Puwlama district on Wednesday, police said.
The slain was in his shop near Old Bus Stand, Tral, 36 kms from here, when pistol borne masked men shot at him from point-blank range at around 3 p.m.
Zarger was immediately shifted to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead.
A police official while confirming the killing said the slain hailed from Tral town.
Reports said the killing created panic in the town.
In recent weeks, militants have started targeting civilians and hurling grenades at crowded places to impose shutdown in the Valley.
Last Monday one civilian died while over 40 were injured when militants threw a grenade in a crowded market near city center Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
Prior to that, non-local laborers, truck drivers and fruit traders were targeted by the militants in south Kashmir.
On August 30, unidentified gunmen shot dead a 65-year-old shopkeeper at Parimpora area of Srinagar. On September 30, unidentified gunmen shot at apple grower at Sopore leaving the grower and four others including a four-year-old girl injured.
The Valley witnessed spontaneous shutdown after the Center abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5.
However, in recent weeks the impact of the shutdown is waning as more and more people are resuming their normal activities across Kashmir.
Yet another accident: Four killed, 5 injured in Kishtwar mishap
Jammu, Nov 13: Four people were killed and five others injured when a vehicle skidded off the road and rolled down into a deep gorge in Kishtwar district on Wednesday, officials said.
The vehicle, carrying pilgrims from Palmar to the Sarthal temple, fell into the gorge after the driver lost control over it, they said.
Police and locals rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to a district hospital in Kishtwar, where doctors declared four of them brought dead, the officials said.
Three critically injured people were shifted to the Government Medical College here through a chopper for specialised treatment.
District administration, Kishtwar, provided immediate relief of Rs 10,000 each to the family members of the deceased and 5,000 each to the injured.
This is the second such incident in 24 hours as 16 people, including five women and three children, were killed on Tuesday when a passenger vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge in Doda district.