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Ayodhya case Day 2: Nirmohi Akhara asks for more time to present evidences, bench asks to resubmit arguments after better preparation

The Nirmohi Akhara had on day 1 strongly pitched for claiming the ownership for the entire disputed 2.77-acre plot, stating that Muslims had not been allowed to enter the place since 1934.

The Supreme court today resumed the hearing for the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid land dispute case on the second day. A Constitution Bench comprises Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer. The 5-judges bench resumed hearing the arguments presented by senior advocate Sushil Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akhara, one of the parties in the case.

The Ram Mandir case has been taken up for a day to day hearing after the efforts to arrive at an amicable settlement through mediation failed.

The Nirmohi Akhara had on day 1 strongly pitched for claiming the ownership of the entire disputed 2.77-acre plot stating that Muslims had not been allowed to enter the place since 1934.

Senior Advocate S Jain continues the arguments on behalf of Nirmohi Akhara:

The argument commenced today with Sushil Jain advancing his argument based on the point of limitation. He based his argument on Article 47, 142 read with Section 23 of the Limitation Act 1908 saying the suit filed by Nirmohi Akhara was “well within the prescribed time limit”:

  • He began by saying the suit is covered by Article 47 of Limitation Act 1908. The property was under attachment of Magistrate under Sec.145 CrPC.
  • The limitation period starts running only after final order under Sec.145. Since the interim order of Magistrate was pending, cause of action didn’t arise.
  • The suit sought restoration of “shebait” rights for management of temple (‘Shebait’ is the custodian of the temple) ‘Shebait’ rights include management and proprietary rights. When dispossession happened in 1950, Shebait rights got affected, argued Jain.
  • To get over the bar of limitation, Jain argues that prayer for the restoration of ‘shebait rights’ will be covered under-recovery of possession. The limitation period for recovery of possession is 12 years. The dispossession happened in 1950. The suit was filed in 1959. So suit filed well within limitation said, Jain.
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Jain representing the Nirmohi Akhara reiterated that at this point they were petitioning for the possession of the inner courtyard and the Ramjanma Bhoomi. “Our claims of ownership stem from our possession. We had been in possession for the longest time. Obstruction to worship and prayer is what forced Nirmohi Akhara to file the civil suits,” Jain said in the court today.

CJI asks Nirmohi Akhara to be consistent in presenting citations and submissions:

The hearing resumed after lunch. CJI asks Jain to make submissions regarding the documentary evidence supporting the claims of Nirmohi Akhara and asks him to provide the bench and the lawyers of the other petitioners with the documents being referred to during arguments.

When Jain said that he would refer to two judgments, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the Muslim parties, interjected and said that he should be given copies “of the SCR” too.

Agreeing with Dhavan on this point the CJI asked Jain to be consistent in what he was referring to and should provide copies of each citation/ documents to the other parties and the bench. The CJI then directed Jain to refer only to those documents, which have been provided by him to all the parties and people present in the court and not just to the bench.

Nirmohi Akhara argues on the difference between ‘shebaitship’ and ‘trusteeship’:

The Nirmohi Akhara also argued that there was a difference between a shebait and a trustee of a temple.

The advocate said that a ‘shebait’ is an “agent of the idol of a temple”. “The shebait enjoys some sort of rights to the property, which are akin to proprietary rights. It is not just a post but proprietary rights are blended with it. That, my lords, is shebaitship,” he added.

The advocate relies on Article 142 to present his arguments, “The Nirmohi Akhara’s right of management, and not just its right of possession, has also been curtailed by the disputed structure”.

In response to this argument, Justice Chandrachud said a shebait could be entitled to conducting worship in the temple without being in its possession. He asserted that if Jain’s reference to Article 142 was to be admitted, it would also mean that Nirmohi Akhara would only have 12 years from the time of dispossession.

Justice Chandrachud said, “(Article) 142 speaks of possession of the immovable property but does not talk about its management. So possession of property and management of worship (rituals) are two different things.”

Nirmohi Akhara draws CJI’ flak for failing to produce records:

The Supreme Court demanded that Jain present either oral or documentary evidence that Nirmohi Akhara was in possession of the Ram Janmabhoomi. CJI Gogoi said, “Do you have oral or documentary proof, revenue records, of possession of Ramjanmabhoomi before its attachment?”

However, Jain replied that records had been lost in a dacoity in 1982. The bench then added, “For the next two hours, we want to see the documentary and oral evidence only. If not, we will proceed to the next case.”

Bench gives more time to Nirmohi Akhara to present evidence:

The Constitution Bench said that the counsel for the Nirmohi Akhara, who has been presenting his arguments since the hearings began on Tuesday was underprepared and failed to present satisfactory evidence to back their claims in the case.

The 5 judge bench giving some time to the Nirmohi Akhara to prepare itself and resubmit arguments after better preparations, decided to take up suit no 5, submissions of deity Ram Lalla.

Counsel for deity Ram Lalla begins argument:

Senior advocate K Parasaran for the deity Ram Lalla started advancing submissions in the Ayodhya case.

In view of his age and seniority, the CJI asked K Parasaran to sit and argue. Parasaran declining the offer said, “Tradition constrains me to defy my age” and offers to argue standing. He began his submission by saying.

  • Devotees believe that the spirit of Sri Ram is present in the place and this unshakeable faith, evidences that the ‘Asthan’ is the birthplace of Lord Ram.
  • At least in three places in Valmiki Ramayana, it is mentioned that Sri Ram was born in Ayodhya, said Parasaran.

Justice Bobde, in response, asked, “Has such a question regarding the place of birth of a prophet or god arisen before any court before? Whether issues like the birth of Jesus Christ at Bethlehem have been questioned and dealt with by any court in the world?”

Parasaran said he would check and revert to the court.

This marked an end to the second day of the day to day hearing in the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid land dispute case.

The daily hearings were prescribed by the Constitutional bench on August 2 after taking note of the ‘failed mediation’ by a three-member panel led by former Supreme Court judge FMI Kalifulla. The mediators also comprised spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu.

The panel had said in its report that Hindu and Muslim parties had not been able to find a solution to the vexatious dispute.

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