The Supreme Court has been hearing the Ayodhya title dispute since 6 August 2019. To help you keep up, we have created a short weekly summary of proceedings (see Weeks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10).The case is a set of appeals to the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment that divided the land title equally among the Nirmohi Akhara, Lord Ram and the Sunni Waqf Board.
In Week 3, Sr. Adv. CS Vaidyanathan, who represents Lord Ram, took the court through the documentary and oral evidence.
The bench discussed the veracity of a stone slab, whose inscription states that Ayodhya had a large Lord Vishnu temple (Ram is an incarnation of Vishnu). CS Vaidyanathan contended that this was the temple upon which the Babri Masjid was built. He read through witness statements that describe the disputed site as of special relevance to Hindus. He sought to establish that Hindus have continuously worshipped at the site.
No one can claim possession
CS Vaidyanathan further argued that the land cannot be possessed because it is a public temple and hence is not subject to the claims of private parties.
He specifically disputed the Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board's title claims. He submitted that the Nirmohi Akhara is explicitly claiming the title in conflict with Lord Ram. Therefore, he argued that they should not have been granted a relief by the Allahabad High Court, as Lord Ram was not made a defendant to their suit. Vaidyanathan also submitted that the Waqf property was not registered and that their title was not found on the revenue records.
Sr. Adv. PN Misra represented the Ram Mandir Revitalisation Committee. Misra took the court through Hindu scriptures providing evidence for worship at Ayodhya. He relied on the Atharva Veda, Skand Purana and Valmiki Ramayana. Mishra submitted that Hindus have continuously worshipped the Janmabhoomi and have never been dispossessed.
Right to worship
The court heard the counsel for Gopal Visharad, who is a lay worshipper seeking continuance of his right to worship. He approached the court in 1950 after being denied entry to the central dome by State authorities. Gopal Visharad is represented by his son, whose counsel is Sr. Adv. Ranjit Kumar. He read witness affidavits stating that Muslims neither performed namaz at the site after 1950 nor objected to Hindus worshipping at the site and requested the court to draw an inference from the statements, given the absence of any objections to them by other parties.
Nirmohi Akhara claims shebaitship
The court heard Nirmohi Akhara’s counsel Sr. Adv. S.K. Jain. He submitted that the Akhara is claiming shebaitship (the rights to manage the temple) and that they claim possession of both the inner and outer courtyards. He submitted that the other party (Ram Lalla) is not a worshipper, but a 'friend' of the deity.
Justice Bobde emphasised that SK Jain was arguing contrary to his own written statement, without amending it.
As SK Jain presented evidence, it became evident that his primary proof was negative in nature: no Hindus have contested the Akhara's shebait claim, therefore it is true. SK Jain submitted that all defendants were allowed to cross-examine the Akhara, when it filed a suit against the former UP CM Kalyan Singh's government acquiring the land.