The five judges bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved judgment on the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid land dispute after a marathon hearing of forty days. The Court has given liberty to the parties to submit written submissions in three days on the moulding of final relief.
This is the second longest hearing in the history of Supreme Court after the landmark hearing in Keshavananda Bharati case which lasted 68 days. The hearing in Aadhaar case took 38 days.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among three parties - the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The verdict in the case can be expected before November 17, the date of retirement of CJI Gogoi, who heads the bench.
The bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Bobde, Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer extensively heard Senior Advocates K Parasaran and C S Vaidyanathan (for the deity ram lalla), S K Jain (for Nirmohi Akhara), Rajeev Dhavan along with Meenakshi Arora and Shekhar Naphade (for Sunni Waqf Board and Muslim parties) and few other lawyers in the matter.
The day to day hearing commenced on August 6, after CJI declared that the mediation talks by the SC-appointed panel of Justice F M Khalifullah, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu failed.
The Hindu parties have contended that the entire 2.77 acres of land has juristic personality as the janmasthan of Lord Ram. The Muslim side has countered this by saying that the mere belief that the site was the birth place of Lord Ram will not confer it juristic personality.
The parties have referred to the reports of historians, travelers and gazetters and land documents prepared during British rule to base their respective claims. References were also made to the report of the Archaeological Survey of India on the point whether the mosque was built over an existing temple.
On Day 40 of the hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhawan submitted that the mosque was devoted to God, that even the graveyard was in use and the mosque was a place of peaceful worship by the Muslims till it was torn down by a mischievous crowd.
"The burden of proof (of title) is on the Hindus", he argued on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board.
"If the Hindus are claiming title from before 1855, we are entitled to it by virtue of adverse possession for 2 centuries. The premises are ours. What was destroyed belonged to us. We are entitled to restoration. We had sought the relief of restitution. The bricks are still there...The property belongs to the Waqf...We are claiming the whole area as being part of the mosque, including the 'chabutra' (which he claimed is in the outer courtyard)...And we are not praying for title alone. The declaration is for a public waqf", he argued.
It was his contention that the Nirmohi Akhara was only acting in the capacity of the 'pujari' and not the 'shebait'. He also questioned the credentials of the Hindu Mahasabha, pointing out that it has branched out into several entities- "There are four replies on behalf of the Mahasabha. And the four replies are contradicting. Which Mahasabha is being represented?"
"They have not shown any title. There is no proof of even use, other than accounts of foreign travellers. All they had was a prescriptive right to pray, no title. There cannot be a successor to the right to pray. It is a personal right, not a post or a title", he concluded.
The final day of the hearing witnessed some dramatic moments with Dr. Dhawan tearing up in court certain maps and other documents sought to be relied on by Senior Advocate Vikas Singh to show the point which the Hindus have believed to be Lord Ram's place of birth.
"You can shred it more", Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had commented.
With this incident having been widely reported and trending on social media, Dr. Dhawan subsequently suggested that he had intended to throw away the papers and proceeded to tear them ony when the Chief Justice said so- "It was with the court's permission". The Chief Justice also agreed that he had said that the Senior Counsel may tear up the documents.