Ruling on the decades-old dispute in the ancient city of Ayodhya, the Supreme Court on Saturday held that a temple would be built at the 2.77-acre piece of land in Ayodhya and ordered the government to give Muslim parties an alternative 5-acre plot in a prominent place because they had been wronged twice, once in 1949 and then in 1992.
The verdict was preceded by appeals for calm by top religious and political leaders and a nationwide security alert to prevent any attempt by miscreants to inflame tempers in a case that has been followed intently by the Hindu and Muslim community.
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Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who read out the unanimous Ayodhya verdict by the top court’s Constitution Bench in favour of Ram Lalla Virajman, which represents the child deity, said the 2.77 acre plot would remain in custody of the official receiver till the Centre forms a trust to take over the land.
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The Centre has been given three months to finalise a scheme and set up the trust.
“Possession of inner and outer courtyard shall be handed over to the board of trustees,” the court said in its ruling on the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid dispute case.
The verdict stressed that the mosque was clearly not constructed over vacant land and gave credence to the Archaeological Survey of India report that the Babri Masjid was built over a structure. But it underscored that the ASI hadn’t specifically opined whether a temple was demolished to build the dispute structure.
The judges said it could not be said that Muslims had been able to establish the rights of the inner courtyard. “The Muslims have not adduced evidence to establish possessory control nor is there any account to evidence offering of namaz,” the bench ruled.
“There is no evidence to indicate the possession was exclusive by Muslims. Hindu worships at Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi indicate an open exclusive unimpeded possession of the outer courtyard,” Justice Gogoi said, underscoring that title could not be decided on the basis of faith and belief.
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A day before the five-judge Constitution Bench decided to open the top court on a Saturday, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had summoned top officials of Uttar Pradesh to reassure himself that the administration was prepared to deal with any fallout of the verdict. Security was also upgraded at the residence of the five judges hearing the case.
The Constitution Bench started hearing cross-appeals against the 2010 Allahabad high court verdict on the title suit in August after a last-ditch effort by the top court to give negotiations a chance did not get anywhere.
The high court had ordered the division of the disputed 2.77 acres of land into three equal parts to be divided among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination; and the Ram Lalla Virajman, which represents the child deity.