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Ayodhya Verdict: The Bridge Which Defies Time Travel

We can say that the key reasons behind SC’s ruling was to establish that the Apex Court alongwith the entire Indian judicial system, does not decide property title on the basis of faith and belief alone, but on the basis of concrete evidence.

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It was an early dinner in Chennai on November 8th, 2019 for veteran lawyer Mr. K Parasaran, the former Attorney General of India on two occasions, when he heard that the Ayodhya matter which he argued for months at the ripe age of 93 before the Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India will finally see a judgment in the following morning at the SC. Like Parasaran, all the key advocates representing various stakeholders had assembled before the Chief Justice of India and his brother judges to hear the historical verdict. When Parasaran had started his arguments in the Supreme Court, he had described the significance of Ram Janmabhoomi for Hindus by saying: Janani Janma-bhoomi-scha swargadapi gariyasi (mother and motherland are greater than the heavens above)

The facts and arguments in the Ayodhya case before the Apex Court have even touched upon unheard part of Indian history, culture, religion, puranas and even archaeology. Ram Lalla was declared as a juristic person which in my understanding is the single most important recognition to our pre-historic beliefs and cultural system. 

The Apex Court in this defining judgment ensured the legal protection of the underlying purpose and practically adjudicated upon this long withstanding dispute, by recognising the legal personality of the first Plaintiff i.e Ram Lalla Virajman and thus declared it a juristic person. A juristic person is a non-human legal entity recognised by the Court in law who is entitled to rights and duties just like any human legal entity.  What is even more heartening is that the Muslim side did not contest Ram Lalla being a juristic person, yet the Apex Court gave a clear finding on the issue because the deity was one of the main litigants in a suit filed claiming ownership of the disputed land.  

The Supreme Court was sitting in adjudication of the civil appeal from Allahabad High Court wherein as per the High Court judgment the disputed property stood divided between the parties. The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgment has rightly rejected the approach adopted by the High Court as a title dispute cannot be decided by dividing the possession between different claimants. However, despite holding that the entire property is to be used for the purpose of temple construction for Hindus, the apex court has not ruled on the possessory title of any party, simply because no party could establish a title on the basis of legally admissible evidence. The SC, rather, has adjudicated the dispute on the basis of preponderance of probabilities. In order to understand the reasoning with clarity, it holds merit to delve into the details.

The disputed site involved two portions of land- the outer courtyard and the inner courtyard. Whereas the practice of worship by Hindus on the outer courtyard stood well established, it was the inner courtyard that had become a bone of contention. In deciding the dispute on inner courtyard, the Court categorically stated that no party, by cogent evidence, could establish exclusive use for the purposes of worship and observed thus:

“The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of construction in the 16th century.”

On historical facts and travelogues presented before the Court, it was held that the probability of Hindus using both inner and outer courtyard for the purposes of worship weighed with the judges. However, this observation is not to be confused in a manner that a temple existed prior to a mosque on the site. The Court merely treated the probability of the site being used as a composite whole on a better footing than a bifurcated use of the same. The basis lies in equity.

On the point of existence of a Hindu temple, the Court has, in explicit words, held that the report of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), though an expert evidence, merely reveals the existence of a ‘structure’ underneath the mosque, but it does not reveal that it was a Hindu structure. However, in the same breath, the Court also noted that the underlying structure was definitely a non-Islamic structure. Thus, the absence of an Islamic structure enhances the probability of a Hindu structure but does not conclusively establish it.

In conclusion we can say that the key reasons behind SC’s ruling was to establish that the Apex Court alongwith the entire Indian judicial system, does not decide property title on the basis of faith and belief alone, but on the basis of concrete evidence. What really shows the mental and psychological growth of Indians in general is, that when the aforesaid unprecedented finding of the SC came on 9th November, 2019, the religious community of 200 million Indian Muslims accepted the verdict with grace and dignity and now with the clarity of construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, the country can move on to more pressing challenges like providing jobs and economic growth for the youngest democratic Nation of the world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Ayodhya Verdict

Sudhir Mishra

The author is managing partner, Trust Legal

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Smridhi Sharma

The author is Advocates, Supreme Court of India

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