JUSTICE DELIVERY SYSTEM IN INDIA OVERVIEW OF AYODHYA VERDICT
Updated: Apr 21
Author: Srijan Tripathi, I Year of B.B.A.,LL.B from Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur (MNLU, Nagpur).
The Ram Janmabhoomi case is one of the largest challenges faced by the constitutional machinery of India. It involves the sentiments of two of the country’s most prominent religions and politics on a level which was never seen before in the post-independence India. This article aims to explain how the whole dispute came to be and how did the courts and the political machinery gave their best attempts to strike a balance and between Hindu and Muslim religious sentiments. This article would also aim to explore the different prospective from which the matter can be examined, which also includes the the author’s own opinion. The main aim of this article is to increase the reader’s understanding of the complex dynamics which were at play in the dispute and offer a concise judicial history of the whole dispute. This article has utilized information from various resources which have been cited in the end of the document.
The ground on which the medieval masque, Babri Masjit, stood is historically regarded by Hindus as their deity Lord Ram's birthplace. At the heart of the Ayodhya conflict is Ram.
Lord Ram is one of the most popular Hindu deities and is regarded as the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Ramayana claims that Rama was born to a queen in Ayodhya named Kausalya and king Dasaratha
Babur was the first Mughal emperor of India, and the creator of the Mughal Empire. One of his generals, Mir Bagi, is thought to have erected the masjid in 1528, on his orders.
Muslims claim to have worshipped at the "Mosque-temple" alongside Hindus for centuries. Muslims carried out their prayers inside the mosque while Hindus offered prayers outside the mosque premises but inside the overall structural compound. During the British raj, a railing was erected between the two areas to prevent any disputes. After independence, an idol of Lord Ram was placed inside the mosque, which led to major complications.
Dispute and Politics:
Instances of religious violence in Ayodhya were first noted in the 1855 when Hindu and Muslim rivals engaged in conflict over mosque and temple concerns. Then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru demanded that the idols ought to be taken down. However, K.K.K. Naik, a local politician, he disobeyed Nehru's commands because he thought it would cause disturbances in the community. The police sealed and locked the premises to prevent anyone from entering the structure.
Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) was formed in 1964 and since its inception started a bid to restore disputed mosques to temples. In 1980, Vishwa Hindu Parishad was joined by mainstream Hindu nationalist family- the RSS and a movement was launched to reclaim the site and construct a temple there dedicated to the infant Rama (Ram-lala).Bharitya Janta Party (BJP) which was formed in 1980 from remains of Jana Sangh took over the major part of the movement and in 1990, a ‘Rathyatra’ was launched under the leadership of LK Advani. This led to communal riots all over India. Advani was arrested by the Bihar government, but despite this a large number of “Kar Sevaks” or volunteers tried to attack and vandalize the standing mosque, accusing the VP Singh government at the center of being weak.
As a result, the BJP withdrew its support from the ruling coalition and fresh elections were held
.In these elections BJP won a majority in Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly and increased its share in Lok Sabha.
Demolition of the Masjid:
On the morning of 6th December 1992 the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its supporters planned program involving 150000 VHP and BJP Kar Sevaks. It was held very close to the disputed structure’s premises. The ceremony included speeches by all the Hindutva political giants like Advani, Murli Mohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. The mob gathered there grew increasingly agitated during the fiery speeches and stormed the mosque shortly afterwards.
The police unit posted to guard the mosque was heavily outnumbered; as a result more than 20000 people were killed in the communal violence which was followed by the demolition.
Liberian commission was set by government of India to probe the circumstances which led to all the violence and destruction. The dispute has ever since been an issue of contention and violence between the two communities.
Court Cases Overview:
The first recorded judicial proceeding relating to the structure was in 1950 when Gopal Singh Visharad filed a suit with Allahabad High Court seeking injunction to allow Hindus to do puja inside the disputed site. A suit of similar nature was filed by Paramhans Das of Ayodhya but was later withdrawn. In 1959, a Hindu religious body: - Nirmohi akhara filed a case asking the court for the transfer of disputed site to itself. Soon after, the Sunni Waqf board filed a suit and laid its claim to the site. The Allahabad High Court comprising justices S. U. Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and
D. V. Sharma started hearing which was decided in 2010. Court ordered Archeological Survey of India to conduct excavations in the complex to determine if a temple existed beneath the mosque. The survey concluded that there indeed were traces of a temple complex, but the result was disputed by the Muslim side. Finally in 2010, the three member bench of Allahabad high court ruled that the land should be divided into three parts. The site of ram lala idol was given to party representing Ram Lala Virajman; Nirmohi Akhara was granted area called Sita rasoi and ram chabutra and Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board was granted the remaining property.
All the three parties challenged the high court’s decision in Supreme Court.
In this section, I will try to articulate my humble opinion about the whole issue.
When the Allahabad HC decision was challenged before the Supreme Court, there were two major questions before the bench,
1:- Should the land division done by Allahabad HC be held valid?
2:-Is the deity a legal entity which can hold land and file possession claims?
The matter after initial discussions was transferred to a 5 member constitutional bench.
The Ram Janma Bhoomi dispute is one of the biggest challenges faced by the Indian judicial system till date. In a case like this where the dispute was not between mere mortals but gods, there was no way of coming to a simple conclusion. If all the parties were not satisfied by the decision, widespread violence and death was nearly a guarantee and it would cause a significant hole in the very fabric of Hindu- Muslim relations in the country.
According to me the courts tried all the ways possible in which the matter could have been dealt with. Firstly, the Allahabad HC followed the principle of natural justice and equally distributed the property between the three parties, but that did not work as all the three parties moved to the Supreme Court .According to me the court was justified in equal distribution as no one party could provide convincing evidence to gain the custody of the structure completely.
The court also rightly held that the area inside the mosque where the idols were placed will be granted to Hindu side as it was believed to be the birth place of lord Ram and its possession being with the Hindus will not obstruct the prayers of Muslim.
But the responses of plaintiff and even the judges were divided. Hindu side claimed that they should be granted complete management rights of the complex and be allowed to construct a grandeur temple for “ram lala” they also held that a separate piece of land would be granted to Muslims for construction of the Masjid. Meanwhile, the Muslim side demanded the restoration of the complete structure as it was before it was demolished by ‘Kar Sevaks’ in 1992.
Even the judges were of different opinions regarding the matter, the dissenting judge, justice Khan held that “no temple was demolished during the construction of the mosque. The temple was already in ruins and some materials were borrowed from its structure.”
On the other hand, Justice Agarwal and Sharma were of the view that the disputed structure was constructed by invaders by razing a Hindu temple.
Coming to the Supreme Court’s verdict, according to my opinion the best part about the verdict was that it ended an insufferable dispute which was a threat to the secular fabric of the country. I am relieved that this topic can no longer be used by politicians to create different vote banks and to spread communal discontent in the nation. Honorable SC ensured that no country is left empty handed, both the temple and mosque have been given land to coexist like their visitors.
The Supreme Court on 9th November 2019 gave a unanimous verdict and cleared the way for the construction of Ram Temple on the disputed site. Firstly, the SC recognized Lord Ram as a legal entity capable of owning land. 2.77 acres of land was granted to Ram Lala Virajman and, central government was given the responsibility of forming a trust which would oversee the decisions regarding the property.
Secondly, the court instructed Uttar Pradesh government to grant 5 acres of land to Waqf Board for construction of a mosque.
And finally, in this way the country’s courts were successful after repeated attempts to chalk up and finalize a settlement between two of India’s and the world’s major religions.
The Ayodhya dispute can be directly placed as a personification of what is wrong with Hindu Muslim relations in India i.e. disputes, arguments and confusions caused by various political and religious factions to gain power.
Ever since the Hindus have laid their bid of the temple complex, Ayodhya was the epicenter of all political activity in the country. The Hindus see all the disputed mosques as a sign of Islamic atrocities committed on their ancestors, the hindutva faction exploits this feeling to force a feeling of defeat on Hindu general populous and make them feel threatened. This feel is further exploited to create vote banks by making a Hindu vs. Muslim or Mandir vs. Masjid dynamic.
The rise of mass media nationalized a previously little know issue, now everyone had an opinion but still the Hindus did not have a uniform emotions regarding the issue. The matter was further subdued when Jawaharlal Nehru ordered the structure to be closed off.
But when BJP spearheaded by LK Advani, started a widespread movement to demand a Hindu temple on the disputed site, they succeeded in appealing to the conscious of Hindu youth and gather a lot of volunteers (in the times of recession and unemployment). When the Rath Yatra was going on there was a sense of distrust between the two communities which resulted in communal clashes. India has seen a horrific period of communal riots and terrorist attacks because of the issue.
But not all individual and groups were divided on the topic, there were many humanistic voices which appealed to the rivals to stop the struggle and construct schools and hospitals on the disputed land. But obviously such politically charged issues cannot be solved in such ways.
I would like to confidently resonate with the Liberhans Commission in saying that the ordinary Hindus had no role in razing the masjid. The rampage caused in the holy city of Ayodhya on 6th December 1992 was the work of a hateful and bigoted ideology.
Finally, the majority of people in the country belonging to both the communities were relieved when the court after decades of legal and political games put an end to the dispute satisfying all the parties. Most of the people are now happy and do not want to start another chain of similar events on other disputed places of worship.
The international community watched in horror and disbelief as India was consumed by chaos after the demolition of Babri Masjid. But people who were not familiar with the historical, social, political and religious aspects of the whole ordeal saw Hindus as oppressors and Muslims as victims, which was not necessarily the case. International media covered the issue by highlighting Hindu extremist violence and justifying violence from the other side as a normal reaction against the oppression. India was portrayed as a failed state taken over by fanatical goons.
The Muslim countries were obviously very concerned about the safety of Muslims in India while, the Hindu minorities in Islamic nations feared violence. There were proposals by Islamic nations to boycott and sanction India. The terror camps run by our neighbor also received mass recruitment of youth when wanted to take revenge of the demolition.
The Demolition and the events which followed lowered the image of India in the world as a secular and peaceful country. Many western countries announced breaking of bilateral agreement and pausing for reconsideration of many development projects. But the government and the constitutional machinery once again reassured the world that India is still a secular state with a deep sense of coexistence by taking swift action against the culprits of violence and vandalism. Normal conditions were restored and people were again continuing with their day to day activities within a week.
But we would have to accept the bitter truth that due to the fanaticism and religion politics of a few people, India has been forced to give explanations and be at the receiving end of criticism by various think tanks and human rights organizations.
ARCHEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA’S REPORT
The first excavations were held all the way back in 1976-77 under the former Archeological Survey of India Director KK Muhammad. Muhammad was the only Muslim in the group and him and with surety claimed that there was ample evidence that there once stood a grand temple on the disputed site.
The second rounds of excavations were held in 2003 on the order of the Allahabad High Court. By then the mosque had been raised by hindutva activists who allowed for ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey. All the work by the historians was recorded on tape and cross verified. The second excavation also led to the same conclusion. ASI put forward 7 evidences that suggested the existence of temple.
PILLARS:- ASI found concluded that 12 pillars of the mosque were made from the remains of a temple
TERRACOTTA SCULPTURES: - Sculptures depicting various humans and animals were found which a distinct characteristic of a temple. Such things cannot be of a mosque as its haram in Islam stated ASI.
BATHHOUSE FOR THE DIETY: - Also called ‘Pranali’, with the depictions of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
INSCRIPTION: - The discovery which made the existence of a temple obvious was an inscription from ‘Vishnu Hari Shila Phalak’ dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
As the Supreme Court decided the long running Ram Janmabhoomi case, it was feared that the country would once again be engulfed in the fire of violence. But to the surprise of the seasoned administrator, there were no cases of Hindu-Muslim violence in the country. This goes to demonstrate the point that no matter how grave a dispute maybe, people place their trust in the justice system and qualified judges to solve it.
Despite outdated and slow system of the judiciary, the common man still believes in his heart the vision of our constitution framers. The Ayodhya dispute as of the date of writing this paper stands solved with all of the rival parties satisfied, and I hope our country learns that the answer to disputes lie in the courtrooms and not in the politician’s helm.
Ayodhya dispute: The complex legal history of India's holy site (BBC).
Ayodhya | Faith and dispute: the tale of a sacred town (The Hindu).
CONSTRUCTING COLLECTIVE MEMORY AND IDENTITY FOR MOBILIZATION (Bachelor Thesis Marjolein L.A. Quist)
AYODHYA RAM MANDIR DISPUTE AND POLITICS (Dr. Ashok Uttam Chothe)
RITUAL AS CONFRONTATION: THE AYODHYA CONFLICT (Jan G. Platvoet, Leiden University)
Was There a Temple under the Babri Masjid? Reading the Archaeological ‘Evidence’ (Supriya Varma, Jaya Menon)
(1) AMICUS (Volume 16)