Ayodhya hearing to conclude tomorrow; Hindus say no one can claim exclusive possession of site

The hearing in the sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in SC has reached Day 39. The proceedings are likely to end on October 16, 2019, which would be the fortieth day of the case

Supreme Court of India (PTI photo)
Supreme Court of India (PTI photo)

Ashlin Mathew

The hearing in the sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in the Supreme Court has reached Day 39. The proceedings are likely to end on October 16, 2019, which would be the fortieth day of the case. The hearings had originally been scheduled to end on October 17, with the court expected to announce a verdict before the incumbent Chief Justice demits office on November 17.

Senior advocate K Parasaran, appearing for 'Ram Lalla Virajman', one of the parties in the dispute, made his rejoinder arguments today. He stressed the importance of the birthplace of Lord Ram for the Hindus. He pointed out that there are many mosques in Ayodhya, but ‘Ram Lalla’s’ birthplace can’t be changed.

In a change of tact, following the observation of Rajeev Dhavan — who represents the Muslim petitioners — on Monday, September 14, that most of the questions of the Bench were directed to him, the bench was seen to be asking Parasaran a number of questions.

The Bench, comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, asked Parasaran questions on legal issues like the law of limitation, doctrine of adverse possession and questions as to how Muslims are ousted from seeking title over the 2.77 acre disputed land at Ayodhya. In response, Parasaran seemed to be fumbling.

In jest, Chief Justice also asked Rajeev Dhavan if he felt the court was asking enough questions of the Hindu parties, to which Dhavan said that he didn’t mean it that way.

Attempting to state that the title belonged to them, Parasaran said no person —either Muslim or Hindu — could claim exclusive possession of the site as it was a place of public worship. Parasaran added that exclusive possession for a place of worship can be claimed only when one has a clear title over the property.

The remark was objected to by Dhavan, who said the dispute was not one between worshippers of different religions. He said, “Once it is a valid Waqf property, possessory and management rights can be laid,” Dhavan added.

Refusing to listen to Dhavan’s objections, Parasaran said he would only answer to objections raised by the court.

When the bench asked Parasaran if he accepted Dhavan argument that “once a mosque, always a mosque”, Parasaran said, “No. My case is, once a temple, always a temple. I won’t comment on their argument since I’m not an expert.”

The court then asked Parasaran about possessory title without adverse possession. Justice Chandrachud asked Parasaran if he thought that a party may not have to go as far as to establish adverse possession, but could they claim title by seeking declaration of possessory title? To this, again, Parasaran did not have clear answers.

After lunch, Parasaran concluded his arguments contending that the Sunni Waqf Board can’t make any claims on basis of the initial conquest by Babar and the subsequent conquest by the British.

Then, Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, representing deity ‘Ram Lalla’ began his arguments, stating that the Muslims have come up with the argument of dedication because of long use. “But there is an admission of the deity being the prior owner,” underscored Vaidyanathan.

In a heated exchange between Vaidyanathan and Dhavan, the former complained that he could not go on arguing with Dhavan commenting beside him. Slamming his statements, Dhavan said it was Vaidyanathan who began it and was always commenting when Dhavan was arguing. “Stop it, stop it. You were the one making comments while I was arguing,” Dhavan said.

“How can he speak like that asking me to stop it,” Vaidyanathan said, and stopped arguing for a brief period and sat down. The CJI then diffused the situation and Vaidyanathan resumed his arguments.

He argued that, “If the place is sanctified as a deity and if Hindus continued to worship at that place, there cannot be claim of adverse possession by Muslims.” He claims that since there was joint possession of the property with the same being used a temple/ deity too, the dedication of the property as a mosque cannot be considered.

Wednesday, October 16, would be the last day of the hearing in the case. Vaidyanathan would be given 45 minutes and Dhavan would get an hour for his rejoinder.

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 the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla

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Published: 15 Oct 2019, 6:22 PM