At 2 p.m. today, the three judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Abdul Nazeer resumed its hearings in the Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute. Given the nature of the dispute, one was not amused to find a saffron clad sadhu amongst the men in black.
In the previous hearing on 17th May, it was argued by Mr. Parasaran that mosque is not essential to Islam. It was also argued that Ayodhya has a "special significance" for Hindus in a manner similar to Mecca and Medina for Muslims.
Today’s hearing began with Rajeev Dhavan arguing that the judgment in Ismail Faruqui case needs to be reconsidered. He stressed that the essential religious practice test requires the court to ‘examine’ if the practice is essential and integral. In Ismail Faruqui the court had failed to ‘examine’ whether a mosque is essential to Islam or not. He argued that the court could interpret it in any way as long as it examined the issue in detail. Consequently, he requested the bench to refer the matter to a larger bench.
It was at this point that the respondent’s counsel referred to Islamic texts to prove that a mosque is not essential to Islam. Furthermore, he also claimed that according to Prophet Mohammed only a few mosques are essential which are situated outside the borders of India.
When pressed by the bench to argue as to why a larger bench should not hear this issue, the counsel did not address the point directly. During the counsel’s exposition on the tenets of Islam for over half an hour, the judges could be seen conferring amongst themselves.
Mr. Rajeev Dhavan resumed his arguments by claiming that Islam is essentially a congregation. A Friday prayer in a mosque should be perceived as a congregation and hence a mosque is essential to Islam. Justice Bhushan observed that a mosque is essential to Islam but the question was whether a prayer inside a mosque is essential or not.
Mr. Rajeev Dhavan then shifted his arguments by referring to Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution. He advanced the position that Article 25 and 26 are matters of delicacy. Justice Misra nodded in agreement with this particular point.
ASG Tushar Mehta argued that Ismail Faruqui was decided in 1994 but no one challenged the decision at that point of time. He also submitted that the doctrine of res judicata should apply in this particular issue.
Justice Dipak Misra requested Mr. Rajeev Dhavan to argue on the point of the res judicata in the next hearing on July 13, 2018.
As the hearing came to a close, Justice Misra observed that he was confused if Mr. Rajeev Dhavan was an agnostic, atheist or a mystic. Mr. Rajeev Dhavan promptly replied that many multitudes lie within him. The conversation veered towards some references to the poet Robert Browning.