NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court of India on Saturday announced a verdict on the decades-old Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid title dispute in favor of Hindus by awarding the entire disputed Ayodhya land to them and directed the centre to construct a temple there.
A five-member apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, ruled out the long-pending judgment in the Ayodhya title suit case.
The apex court bench comprised of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Abdul Nazeer.
According to Indian media, the court noted that the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992 was a violation of the law and ordered that five-acre alternative land in a suitable, prominent place in the city be provided to Muslims for a mosque.
The land for the mosque will be acquired by the government, the court ruled in a historic judgement.
The Indian apex court ordered the government to formulate a scheme within three months under the Ayodhya Act 1993 and set up a trust. Till the trust is formed, the ownership of the site will rest with the Centre. Meanwhile, in a unanimous decision, the Shia petition was dismissed.
In its verdict, the top court stated, “There is adequate material in ASI report to conclude the following: Babri Masjid not constructed on vacant land. There was a structure underlying the disputed structure. The underlying structure was not an Islamic structure.”
“But the ASI report does not say if the structure was demolished for the mosque. It has left unanswered this critical point: whether the temple was demolished for the mosque,” the Indian SC said in its verdict.
“This court must accept faith and accept belief of worshippers,” India’s Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s was quoted as saying. “Court should preserve balance.”
Ahead of the verdict, elaborate security arrangements were made across the country, especially in the temple town to avoid any conflict.
Schools and colleges in the area were closed and all roads leading to the site were blocked by police.
Background of Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid title dispute
At the centre of the row is the 16th Century mosque that was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, sparking riots that killed nearly 2,000 people.
Many Hindus believe that the Babri Masjid was constructed on the ruins of a Hindu temple that was demolished by Muslim invaders.
Muslims say they offered prayers at the mosque until December 1949 when some Hindus placed an idol of Ram in the mosque and began to worship the idols.
Over the decades since, the two religious groups have gone to court many times over who should control the site.
Since then, there have been calls to build a temple on the spot where the mosque once stood.
The long and complicated property dispute has been dragging on in various courts for more than a century.
This particular case is being fought between three main parties – two Hindu groups and the Muslim Waqf Board, which is responsible for the maintenance of Islamic properties in India.
The Hindu litigants are the Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing political party, and the Nirmohi Akhara, which is a sect of Hindu monks.
They filed a title dispute in the Allahabad High Court in 2002, a decade after the mosque was demolished.
A verdict, in that case, was pronounced in September 2010 – it determined that the 2.77 acres of the disputed land would be divided equally into three parts.
The court ruled that the site should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of a third, Hindus another third and the Nirmohi Akhara sect the remainder. Control of the main disputed section, where the mosque once stood, was given to Hindus.
The Supreme Court suspended this ruling in 2011 after both Hindu and Muslim groups appealed against it.