Judgment in Plain English

Today 27th September at 2pm, the three-judge Bench in a split of 2:1 verdict held that Ismail Faruqui 1994 does not require reconsideration by a larger five-judge Constitution Bench. Ismail Faruqui1994 upheld that in questions of State land acquisitions mosques are not an essential feature of Islam. The matter will now be resolved as a land title dispute by a three-judge Bench.


Justice Bhushan, on behalf of Chief Justice Misra and himself, wrote the majority opinion. Justice Nazeer wrote a dissenting opinion.


Majority Opinion

Justice Bhushan, on behalf of Chief Justice Misra and himself, declared that a three-judge Bench will hear the Ayodhya Title Dispute. Thereby, he rejected referring the matter to a five-judge Constitution Bench. 


Justice Bhushan held that the Supreme Court need not review its 1994 judgment in Faruqui. In Faruqui, a three-judge Bench held that the State could acquire land on which a mosque is situated. Faruqui established that a mosque is not an 'essential part of the practice of Islam'. Bhushan emphashised that Faruqui was made in the context of land acquisition and, hence, should not be viewed as a governing factor for the purpose of deciding all suits. Bhushan concluded that the 'questionable observations' in Faruqui are not relevant in this case, which he emphasised is a title dispute, not a land acquisition matter.


Justice Bhushan dismissed the res judicata motion. When res judicata is invoked, a Court dimisses a case on the grounds that it has already been judged.


Justice Nazeer's Dissent

Justice Nazeer held that the current matter must be referred to a Constitution Bench. He held that the current Ayodhya Title Dispute is dependent on the conclusions in Faruqui. Further, he held that Faruqui requires a review by a Constiution Bench. 


First, he established that Faruqui requires review. He stated that it used inadequate means to reach its conclusion on the question of whether a mosque is an essential feature of Islam. He criticized Faruqui for reaching its conclusion without undergoing a detailed examination of the tenets, beliefs and practices of Islam. He referred to Shirur Mutt, where the Supreme Court established the test for establishing whether a practice is essential to a particular faith. He said that Faruqui must be brought in conformity with Shirur Mutt. He concluded that Faruqui requires review.


Next, he established that a Constitution Bench must reveiw Faruqui. He emphasised that there exists a precedent for forming Constitution Benches to answer questions pertaining to whether a practice is an essential religious practice. He quoted the Supreme Court's recent referral order in Sunita Tiwari (Female Genital Mutilation). The reference order stated that the question of whether a religious practice is an essential religious practice must be decided by a detailed examination of the tenets, beliefs and practices of the faith in question. The Court referred Sunita Tiwari to a five-judge Constitution Bench. Justice Nazeer concluded that this case must also be referred to a Constitution Bench.


Justice Nazeer did agree with the majority opinion on the matter of res judicata. He also dismissed the res judicata motion.


The case has been listed for 29th October.