Friday, October 1, 2010

Judges divide land to unite India

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court in a majority verdict on the Ayodhya title suits on Thursday ruled that the 2.7 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya is to be divided equally into three parts among Hindus and Muslims.

It dismissed the Sunni Central Waqf Board’s claim to the Babri mosque with a 2-1 majority and accepted that the land in question was the birthplace of Lord Rama.

A three-judge bench comprising Justices S.U. Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and Dharam Veer Sharma, however, were unanimous in the opinion that the makeshift temple of Ram Lalla could not be removed and the land on which it was located rightfully belonged to the Hindu litigants.

The detailed judgment was of over 10,000 pages.Mr Zafaryab Jilani, the counsel for the Sunni Central Waqf Board, said the court verdict, which came after 60 years, was “partly disappointing and against expectations”. He said the board would appeal the judgment in the Supreme Court. Mr Jilani ruled out the possibility of accepting one-third of the land. “The Babri mosque cannot be reduced to a part or portion,” he said.

Justices S.U. Khan and Sudhir Agarwal ruled that the disputed property should be equally divided among the Hindu Mahasabha, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Central Waqf Board, with each party getting one-third.

Justice Dharam Veer Sharma was categorical that the land belonged to Hindus and rejected the claim of the Sunni Waqf Board. Justice Sharma ruled that the disputed site is Lord Ram’s birthplace and that the disputed structure constructed by Babur was built “against the tenets of Islam” and “did not have the character of a mosque”. Justice S.U. Khan said the mosque was built by Babur, not by demolishing a temple, but on the ruins of a temple, as found in the Archaeological Survey of India report.

The court pointed out that the mosque was not in use and hence the disputed structure could not be termed a mosque in the true sense of the term. However, the entire bench held the view that the central dome of the disputed structure — where the idols had been installed since 1949 and again in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri mosque — belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha. The Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara have been given to the Nirmohi Akhara.

The bench has also directed maintenance of status quo for three months and invited suggestions from all parties for demarcation of the land.

Justice Khan said, “All the three sets of parties, i.e., Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara, are declared joint title holders of the property/premises in dispute as described by letters A B C D E F in the map Plan-I prepared by Shri Shiv Shankar Lal, Pleader/Commissioner appointed by the court in Suit No. 1 to the extent of 1/3rd share each for using and managing the same for worshipping. A preliminary decree to this effect is passed."

However, the Judge said the portion below the central dome, where the idol remains in a makeshift temple, will be allotted to Hindus in the final decree and that the Nirmohi Akhara would be allotted a share including that part shown by the words “Ram Chabutra” and “Sita Rasoi” in the map.Justice Khan added, “However, if while allotting exact portions, some minor adjustments in the share are to be made, then the same will be made and the adversely-affected party may be compensated by some portion of the adjoining land which has been acquired by the Central government.”

Justice Khan held that the disputed structure was constructed as a mosque “by or under the orders of Babar but it is not proved by direct evidence that the premises in dispute, including the constructed portion, belonged to Babar or the person who built it”. He said no temple was demolished for constructing the mosque as it was built over the long-lying ruins of a temple.

Justice Agarwal said, “It is declared that the area covered by the central dome of the three-domed structure, i.e., the disputed structure being the deity of Bhagwan Ram Janamsthan and place of birth of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of Hindus belong to plaintiffs (party on behalf of Lord Rama) and shall not be obstructed or interfered in any manner by the defendants (sic).”

He also observed that the area within the inner courtyard, except some portion, belongs to Hindus and Muslims since both had been using it for centuries. “It is, however, made clear that the for the purpose of share of plaintiffs (parties on behalf of Lord Ram) under this direction, the area covered by the central dome of the three-domed structure shall also be included,” he said.

Justice Agarwal said the open area within the outer courtyard shall be shared by Nirmohi Akhara and the party for Lord Ram since it has generally been used by Hindus for worship.

“It is, however, made clear that the share of Muslim parties shall not be less than one-third of the total area of the premises and, if necessary, it may be given some area of the outer courtyard. It is also made clear that while making meets and bounds, if some minor adjustments are to be made with respect to the share of different parties, the affected party may be compensated by allotting the requisite land from the area which is under acquisition of the government of India,” the Judge said.

In his findings on issues, Justice Agarwal said the parties of the Muslim side had failed to prove that the disputed property was constructed by Babur in 1528 AD. In his separate judgment, Justice D.V. Sharma observed that the disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram. “Place of birth is a juristic person and is a deity. It is personified as a spirit of divine worshipped as Lord Rama as a child (sic). Spirit of divine ever remains present everywhere at all times for anyone to invoke at any shape or form in accordance with his own aspirations and it can be shapeless and formless also (sic),” he said.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh, particularly Lucknow, was converted into a fortress with thousands of paramilitary personnel patrolling the streets. Aerial surveys of “sensitive districts”, including Ayodhya, were carried out Thursday afternoon and the majority of the commercial establishments and shops opted for a complete shutdown after 2 pm when the streets wore a deserted look. The court premises had been turned into an impregnable fortress and all roads leading to it were declared as no-access zones.


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