25 Sep 2019 1:38 PM GMT
Day 31 of the Ayodhya hearing resumed with Advocate Zafaryab Jilani clarifying that the Sunni Waqf board did not accept that the Ram Chabutra is Lord Ram's birthplace, unlike what media had reported from day 30's hearing. He clarified that Ram Chabutra being Lord Ram's birthplace was an observation made by the Faizabad district court judge which they did not challenge, but that didn't mean...
Day 31 of the Ayodhya hearing resumed with Advocate Zafaryab Jilani clarifying that the Sunni Waqf board did not accept that the Ram Chabutra is Lord Ram's birthplace, unlike what media had reported from day 30's hearing.
He clarified that Ram Chabutra being Lord Ram's birthplace was an observation made by the Faizabad district court judge which they did not challenge, but that didn't mean they accepted it.
It was the belief of Hindus, he added, not what they conceded to. Jilani moved on to his submissions and read out Walter Hamilton's Gazetteer, which was referred to by Hindu parties, to argue that it did not establish that Hindus offered prayers inside the central dome. It only mentions that Aurangazeb demolished a temple and a structure was erected on its ruins.
There's no proof of belief in the document, he added. Citing other reports, Jilani argued that there were discrepancies regarding where the Janmasthan is. A report from 1862 was referred to which claimed the temple was located elsewhere, at Ramkot. He then referred to an account by Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang, which mentioned mounds in Ayodhya, and stated that out of those mounds, two prophets' names are found in Ain-e- Akbari. Referring to another document, Jilani stated it claimed that Ram Chabutra, a raised platform which is 60ft away from central dome, was the birthplace of Ram.
At this juncture Justice Bobde said that was the line of argument Jilani had accepted yesterday. "It's their belief, not ours", responded the counsel.
Justice Ashok Bhushan then asked whether oral evidence that the British had divided the area into an inner and outer courtyard, which is why prayers began at the Chabutra, was proof of the disputed area being the Janmasthan. "One or two lines from 100s of pages cannot be taken in isolation. Lordships must consider the testimonies as a whole", Jilani responded.
However Justice DY Chandrachud maintained that all Gazetteers indicated towards Lord Ram's birthplace being the currently disputed structure. "Carnegie and 2 other documents show that before 1855 or before the mutiny of 1857, Hindus and Muslims prayed together in the mosque. The division was made after 1857", he added.
Jilani urged that the claimed belief that Janmasthan is under the central dome only arose in 1989 and nothing had been claimed before that.
Zafaryab Jilani concluded his submissions by arguing that Hindus began asserting rights to the outer area around 1865 and only Sikhs wanted rights to the inner courtyard. Though Justice Bobde interjected and said even Sikhs worshipped Lord Ram and asked whether, at any point after the mosque and before 1855, Hindus wished to pray within the boundary wall and Muslims were opposed to it.
Jilani answered in the negative and reiterated that Hindus only asserted rights in the outer courtyard around 1865.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for Sunni Waqf Board, then commenced her arguments against ASI report referred to by the Allahabad High Court. Initially she referred to the suit filed Mahant Raghubir Das seeking permission to build a temple, which was rejected for want of title. The request, it was submitted, was to build a temple at the Ram Chabutra and not where the Mosque existed. Citing observations of the judge which said the mosque existed for 356 years, and since it's been that long, status quo should be maintained to ensure peace and harmony, Arora argued that if 150 years ago the Faizabad district court judge denied permission, now after 500 years a claim cannot be allowed based on hearsay evidence. Her submission was that the earliest material put forth to prove the existence of a temple was hearsay.
Justice DY Chandrachud replied saying "the observations could be beyond the realm of the suit. To assess them, we must look into the nature of suit, and relief claimed".
Meenakshi Arora went on to discredit the ASI report as an opinion which could not be admitted as evidence. She argued that archaeology is an inexact science, a social science, and not a natural science like physics and chemistry.
Her argument was that archaeology is based on assumptions, hypotheses and inferences, which could not give verifiable conclusions. The ASI report suffers from glaring inconsistencies, and objections were not taken into account.
"The report is an opinion, and drawing inferences from it would be weak evidence...If it's considered expert evidence, it must be tested as per S45 of the Indian Evidence Act", she added.
The senior advocate also raised questions about bones not being relied upon in the report. ASI was silent about finding any demolition, and states it only found a massive structure, she said. "If no demolition, what's the basis of the suit?".
On being questioned by Justices Bobde and Chandrachud whether the structure was demolished or if it fell on its own, Arora argued that if a structure crumbles and the title holder makes no effort to restore it, and then somebody else builds on the land, after years of it lying unused, the title holder can't make a claim. Asserting that the temple being there was mere conjecture, Arora's next line of argument was that no member of the ASI team had signed the summary of the report. While chapters of the entire report were signed, the authorship of the last chapter (the summary) was unknown. The bench seemed disinclined to hear this aspect of the argument as such objections must have been raised at an earlier stage, in the the High Court. Arora submitted that the objection had been raised, but the court said it would deal with it at a later stage but never did.
Justice DY Chandrachud reiterated that "objections such as chapters being signed, who authored the summary, etc. should be raised at an earlier stage...the Commissioner, who is an officer of the court, should have been examined then... as per Order 26 Rule 10 of CPC, ASI report, submitted by the commissioner, 'shall' be evidence unless discredited by examining him."
CJI Ranjan Gogoi then laid out the procedure to raise objections and said by operation of law, the report is part of record. "If you sought to exclude report from the record, you could have done so but didn't". Arguments regarding this will now continue tomorrow