Case Description

The Court is hearing an appeal to the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment which divided the title to the Babri Masjid / Ram Janmabhoomi site. 

Background

Babri Masjid is a 16th century mosque located in Ayodhya. The site of the mosque is also believed to be the birthplace of Ram (Ram Janmabhoomi) by a large number of Hindus. This has repeatedly led to disputes about who possesses the land. 

 

The current legal dispute arose out of a 1949 Faizabad court order. On the night of 22 December, a set of Hindu idols were placed (appeared) under the Babri Masjid dome. A law and order situation developed. On 29 December 1949, a Faizabad court placed the site under the custodial responsibility of the state to control rising communal tensions. In particular, the Additional Magistrate issued a preliminary order under Section 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and directed the site to be placed under the receivership of the Chairman of the Municipal Board.

 

Following the 1949 order, three key title suits challenging it were filed:

  • In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara filed a title suit (suit no. 3). The Nimohi Akhara claims it is the rightful manager of the Ram Janmabhoomi.
  • In 1961, the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs also filed a suit (suit no. 4). The Board claims possession of the mosque. 
  • In 1989, senior advocate Deoki N Agarwal filed a suit (suit no. 5) on behalf of Lord Ram in the Allahabad High Court. All prior suits were moved to the High Court.

 

In September 2010, the Allahabad High Court delivered a judgment dividing the Ayodhya title into three equal parts. It awarded the title to the Nirmohi Akhara, Lord Ram represented by Triloki Nath Pandey (a RSS volunteer and Vishva Hindu Parishad functionary), and the Sunni Waqf Board.

 

All the parties filed appeals and 2011 the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad High Court judgment. They all claim possession to the title and plea for the Supreme Court to declare the title theirs. 

 

On 27 September, a three-judge bench delivered its verdict on the question of what strength bench should hear the appeal. The court ruled that a three-judge bench could continue to hear the matter. It reject referring it to a constitution bench on the ground that Faruqui did not need revisiting. Faruqui held that in questions of state land acquisitions, mosques are not an essential feature of Islam. Justice Bhushan, on behalf of Chief Justice Misra and himself, wrote the majority opinion. Justice Nazeer wrote a dissenting opinion:

 

Then, Chief Justice Dipak Misra retired. On 8 January 2019, Chief Justice Gogoi reassigned the dispute to a five-judge constitution bench, using his administrative powers as Chief Justice. 

 

On 8 March 2019, the court ordered the main parties to attempt mediation over an eight week period. The mediation proceedings began on 13 March and are set to complete in early May. On 10 May, the court extended the mediation period until 15 August, upon the request of several parties.

 

On 9 July one of the parties, Gopal Singh Visharad, approached the court to resume day-to-day court hearings. He contended that no progress was being made in the mediation proceedings. Currently, the court is assessing whether to end mediation proceedings early.

 

For a more detailed timeline of the dispute, read this.

Issues

-Is the Allahabad High Court judgment, dividing the Ayodhya land title between the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla, valid?

-Are suits 3 and 4 barred by limitation, under the Limitation Act, 1908?

-Is the Ram Janmabhoomi (the birthplace of Ram) a jurisitic entity, independent of the presence of idols? And if so, is it immune from possession claims as a juristic entity?

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