The long-standing and badly entangled Ayodhya dispute being heard by the Supreme Court took another turn on Thursday, September 27, even as political voices continued to dog the vexed case with the obvious intent of sharpening communal divide amid the upcoming Assembly elections in a few states followed by general elections 2019.
In a significant judicial decision, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra turned down the plea to refer to the issue whether Namaz, or prayer by a Muslims, can be offered only in a mosque to a larger bench for a review of an observation made in this regard in 1994 by a five-judge bench of the top court. However, of the two judges other than Justice Misra only one concurred with him. Justice Abdul Nazeer passed a dissenting order.
Through this two-to-one majority order, the Ayodhya case would proceed further on merit, remarked Justice Ashok Bhushan who read out the order on his and Chief Justice’s behalf this afternoon. The majority order of the bench declined to revisit the 1994 observations made by a larger five judges’ bench in Ismail Faruqi case to say that in Islam mosque is not essential for offering Namaz and, thus, the government can take over land of a mosque. The Allahabad High Court had relied on this for its September 2010 judgment while trifurcating the land where Babri Masjid once stood in Ayodha among three parties – Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and Sunni Waqf Board.
In his order, Justice Nazeer referred to this to say that questionable observations in Ismail Faruqui case had permeated the Allahabad High Court verdict. What has been essential to religion as laid down in Ismail Faruqui case was arrived at without comprehensive examination. Thus, this needed to be re-examined in detail.
Unlike him, the majority order by two other judges says that the 1994 observations by the Supreme Court were only related to that specific issue of acquisition, and not to the larger question of whether a mosque is essential to Islam.
So, in view of this, the court has fixed the next hearing in the present appeal against the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 judgment for October 29. The case will now come again before the three-judge bench with the only change that by the next date, or in the meantime, Justice Misra will most likely be replaced by Justice Ranjan Gogoi who is slated to take over as Chief Justice since Justice Misra is going to retire on October 2.
A lot of hue and cry was made when Rajeev Dhawan, one of the senior lawyers in the present M Siddiq versus Mahant Suresh Das case, had moved the plea that was turned down on Thursday. He and his client were accused by Hindutva exponents of resorting to delaying tactics by moving such a plea related to an over two decades old observation made by the five-judge bench which was hard to be revised by a smaller bench and thus needed more than five judges bench for what looked like to be an interim decision before the case could proceed further.
The impatience on the part of Hindutva advocates pitching in for a temple at the disputed site has been so great that no less than Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) top leader Mohan Bhagwat has recently warned of a “Mahabarat in Ayodhya” because of the delay in clearing the way for a temple at the disputed site. Barely a week ago from now while speaking in New Delhi in the presence of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP president Amit Shah during a book launch function, Bhagwat said, “It is a fact that Ram’s exile ended in 14 years, but Ayodhya is still in exile even after 500 years.” Before this, Bhagwat had mentioned about the temple in Ayodhya and the need for it to mark and commemorate Ram Janmabhoomi during his three-day discourse in Delhi before a select group of the country’s celebrities and intelligentsia.
Such shrill campaign starting from the top of the present day’s ruling conglomerate blurs the issue of the title that is being looked into by the top court by flaunting sentimentality before the law. Among other things, this also puts a virtual freeze on time, pushes modern era into medieval times, takes away focus and attention from real issues confronting the teeming millions, mauls and tramples minority rights in flagrant violation of the Constitution and law, covers up injustices since yore against highly marginalised social groups and tribesmen and above all tries to create pseudo majoritarian uppance with an eye on votes, polls and elections whether big or small.