The Supreme Court of India will today begin hearing petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict which divided the disputed land into three parts on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya. A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph will hear the case under “direction matters”.
The disputed land’s issues revolve around access to a site traditionally regarded among Hindus to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama, the history and location of the Babri Mosque at the site, and whether a previous Hindu temple was demolished or modified to create the mosque.
The Babri Mosque was destroyed during a political rally which turned into a riot on 6 December 1992. A subsequent land title case was lodged in the Allahabad High Court, the verdict of which was pronounced on 30 September 2010.
Earlier on September 27, then CJI Dipak Misra-headed bench had refused to send to a larger bench the 1994 observation that a mosque is not an integral part of Islam. The plea had been raised by those who wanted the court to reconsider its ruling in the M Ismail Faruqui Etc vs Union Of India And Others case, in which a Constitution Bench had observed that “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open”.
The petitioners had claimed that the earlier decisions in the Ayodhya case were influenced by this statement in the Ismail Faruqui verdict which came on a plea challenging the Constitutional validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act-1993, under which 67.703 acres were acquired in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex.
While refusing the plea, CJI Misra and Justice Ashok Bhushan in their majority verdict said that “we again make it clear that questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui’s case were made in the context of land acquisition” and that “those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals”. The judges said that “the observation need not be read broadly to hold that a mosque can never be an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”.