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NEW DELHI: The emotive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute will be decided as any other land dispute based on evidence on record, the Supreme Court said on Thursday as it endeavoured to scale down passions and tensions generated by the 70-year-old conflict.
A packed courtroom awaited Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer to assemble at 2pm to hear the Ayodhya case. On December 5, feverish arguments were raised by three senior advocates — Kapil Sibal, Dushyant Dave and Rajeev Dhavan — seeking adjournment of the case to July 2019, that is after the next general elections. Sibal and Dave were absent during Thursday’s proceedings.
To prevent passions from trumping legal arguments, the bench said, “Whatever be the case, it is after all a land dispute. There are appeals and cross-appeals (against the Allahabad HC judgment on title suits) from both sides. We will decide it as a land dispute taking into account the evidence on record and after hearing both sides.”
What the bench appeared to be attempting was to divest the heated dispute over ownership of the 2.77 acre core site of political considerations by making it clear that cases be settled on evidence and not a long history attached to them or inherent communal overtones. But the court found that despite its December 5 order, the pleadings were not yet complete to allow the case to be ripe for commencement of hearing.
Appearing for lead petitioner M Siddiq, counsel Ejaz Maqbool, and counsel for Ram Lalla (idol), senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, coordinated seamlessly over exchange of documents, English translations of extracts from books quoted in the suits and getting copies of two videos on the disputed site attached to the original records of the case brought from Allahabad HC. The SC asked the parties to complete the process in two weeks and posted the matter for hearing on March 14.
Siddiq’s other counsel, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, created a flutter at the end of a peaceful hearing by snubbing Vaidyanathan’s suggestion for exchange of possible line of arguments by parties before the day to day hearing. Dhavan termed the case “important not only for India but for the world” and said he would argue the way he wanted to and not tell the other side what line he would take.
Described as the “most important case of the last century”, a three-judge HC bench on September 30, 2010, had by two-to-one majority decided title suits, one of which dated back to 1949, and divided the disputed site in three equal parts among Ram Lalla deity, Sunni Wakf Board and Nirmohi Akhara, while ruling that all three would be title holders over the land.
The HC had said the portion under the central dome of the demolished three-dome structure, where the idol of Ram Lalla was kept in a makeshift temple, was the birthplace of Lord Rama “as per faith and belief of the Hindus”. Nirmohi Akhara was allotted the area which housed Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi and the remaining area was given to Sunni Wakf Board.