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Ayodhya hearing day 1: “keep the dignity of the court” CJI tells advocate of Muslim party as hearing witnesses heated exchanges

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

The day to day hearing in the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid land dispute case commenced in the Supreme Court today. The case was heard by a Constitution Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer.

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

Today was the first day of the hearing in the case and CJI Gogoi has turned down the plea for live-streaming, audio-video recording of the hearing.

Allahabad high court in its September 30, 2010 verdict had divided the 2.77 acres of main disputed Ayodhya land into three equal parts. It had allotted one part each to Ram Lalla (idol), Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Wakf Board. All three parties had appealed the High Court judgement in the Supreme Court.

Senior Advocate Sushil Kumar Jain began making submissions on behalf of Nirmohi Akhara, which is claiming ownership of the entire disputed plot.

  • He began by saying, “We have been fighting for this for so long because it is an issue of emotions for us.”
  • Senior advocate Sushil Kumar Jain, appearing for the Nirmohi Akhara, said that the “Ram Janmasthan” belonged to, had been the possession of, and was managed by the organisation. “I am a registered body. My suit is basically for belongings, possession and management rights”, said Jain.
  • “Outer courtyard has always been in possession of Nirmohi Akhara, therefore suit of Nirmohi Akhara is limited to the inner courtyard, including Sita Rasoi, bhandar grih.” Attachment order of 1951 is confined to the inner portion, Jain argued in front of the bench.
  • Staking a claim over the disputed 2.77 acres of land, Jain argued, “The place known as Ram Janmasthan or the ‘Janam Asthan’ was also in possession of Nirmohi Akhara and Hindu’s were allowed to worship there”.
  • “The plaintiffs have been wrongfully deprived of the charge and management of the temple”, Sushil Kumar Jain.
  • “I am making a prayer for the removal of the Receiver and giving the custody and management to the plaintiff”, Jain furthered on behalf of Nirmohi Akhara.

While the five-judge bench asked questions to understand the “structure and locations” of the disputed site, the Nirmohi Akhara council argued that its temples had been “demolished by some miscreants with no caste, or creed, or religion” on 6 December 1992.

Explaining the legal status and functions of Nirmohi Akhara, Jain added that Nirmohi Akhara manages several temples.

Asserting that the Jhansi ki Rani was also “protected” by the Akhara after the battle of Jhansi when she “took refuge” at the temple in Ayodhya, Jain on behalf of the Nirmohi Akhara claimed that no Muslims were allowed to enter the structure since 1934 and it has been in exclusive possession of Nirmohi Akhara.

Jain cited Allahabad High Court judgements to back his claims that ‘no Muslims were allowed to enter the structure since 1934″:

  • “A place cannot be considered a mosque if no prayers or namaz are offered there,” the senior advocate said.
  •  The absence of provision for ‘wuzu‘, by which Muslims wash hands and feet before namaz, at the disputed site, was interpreted by the Allahabad high court, to arrive at the conclusion that prayers were not being offered there since 1885 hence it ceased to be a mosque long back, argued Jain.

However, in response to his argument the Supreme Court cited the Allahabad’s high court’s order saying that before 1934, Muslims were offering regular prayers at the site.

Meanwhile, the ongoing argument witnessed a heated exchange of words between the CJI and senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is appearing for the Muslim party.

While the bench was asking the counsell for the Nirmohi Akhara to confine his arguments to the civil dispute and skip reading some written statements, Dhavan interfered and said perhaps there should not be any curtailment of arguments.

The CJI said the hearing of the arguments would not be curtailed in any manner and there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind about it. In response, Dhavan got up and clarified that he meant when CJI stopped him and told him to speak when it is his turn.”Mr Dhavan please maintain the dignity of the court”, said CJI Gogoi to which Dhavan replied, “Your Lordships asked a question, I answered”. However, CJI Gogoi reprimanded the advocate by saying, “there is a way to answer it, you are an officer of the Court”.

Justice Chandrachud, one of the members of the Constitution Bench, questioned Jain whether the basis of the claim of the Nirmohi Akhara to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land was possession or ownership, to which the counsel said, “Ownership because of possession.”

The Supreme Court, in its reply, said, “In any case, you have been given one-third of the disputed area in a preliminary decree by the Allahabad High Court.”

CJI Gogoi, reading from the Allahabad High Court judgment just before the bench took a break for lunch, quoted the statement and said, “There is no evidence to show that there existed any temple and that there were idols in it”. Jain responded to this by saying, “My lords, the structure was demolished in 1992.”

Gogoi countered the claim by demanding evidence from the advocate, citing the Allahabad judge’s statement about there being “no evidence”.

After this, the bench rose for lunch at 2 pm. Post lunch, Jain assured the judges that he will show “only the findings”. Continuing with his argument, Jain emphasised on the “importance of worshipping the deity” at the “Ram Janmabhoomi site”.

Reading relevant portions from the Allahabad High Court’s judgment in 2010, Jain said that the Nirmohi Akhara’s suit in the dispute was filed in 1959, “four years after the attachment orders were issued in relation to properties in their possession.”

The Counsel and Bench continued to read various parts of Allahabad High Court judgment, with which Day 1 of the hearing in the Ayodhya case came to an end, which will resume tomorrow (Wednesday).

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, also comprising of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu.

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

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