A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer today began its final hearing of the long pending appeals arising out of the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suits.
Following up on its order of August 2 2019, the bench today commenced hearing the appeal arising out of O O S No 3 of 1989 before the Allahabad High Court, which was filed by the Nirmohi Akhara. The other suits are O O S No 1 of 1989 filed by Gopal Singh Visharad, O O S No 4 of 1989 by the U P Sunni Central Waqf Board and O O S No 5 of 1989 by the deity Shri Ram Lalla Virajman.
In the hearing that commenced from 10:30 AM and went on till 4 PM in evening, the Nirmohi Akhara through senior advocate Sushil Kumar Jain, introduced the court to the issues framed by the High Court in Suit No 3 and the manner in which the issues in question were decided either for or against the Akhara. The issues framed by the high court were:
- Is there a temple of Jannmabhoomi with idols installed therein as alleged in para 3 of the plaint?
- Does the property in the suit belong to the plaintiff No 1?
- Have the plaintiff acquired title by adverse possession for over 12 years?
- Are the plaintiff entitled to get management and charge of the said temple?
- Is the property in suit a mosque made by Emperor Babar known as Babri Masjid?
- Was the alleged mosque dedicated by the Emperor Babar for worship by Muslims in general and made a public waqf property ?
- a) Has there been a notification under the Muslim Waqf Act (UP Act 13 of 1936) declaring this property in suit as a Sunni Waqf property?
- b) Is the notification final and binding and what is its effect?
- Have the rights of the plaintiffs been extinguished for want of possession for over 12 years prior to the suit?
- Is the suit within time?
- a) Is the suit bad for want of notice under Section 80C, Civil Procedure Code?
- b) Is the above plea available to contesting defendants?
- Is the suit bad for non-joinder of necessary defendants ?
- Are the defendants entitled to special costs under Section 35, Civil Procedure Code?
- To what relief, if any, is the plaintiff entitled?
- Is the suit not maintainable as framed?
- Is the suit property valued and court fee paid sufficient?
- Is the suit for want of notice under Section 83 of the UP Act 13 of 1936?
- Whether the plaintiff, Nirmohi Akhara, belongs to the Panchayati Math of the Rama Nand sect of Bairagus and a religious denomination following its religious faith in accordance with its own customs. (added by High Court order dated February 23, 1996)
While going through the 17 issues as well as the High Court’s 2010 decision, senior advocate Jain pointed out that Issues 1 to 5, 8 and 9 had been decided against the plaintiffs and therefore his arguments would be limited to them. Jain dealt with all but Issue no 9 – whether the suit was within time – which will now be heard tomorrow.
On March 8, 2019, the Supreme Courthad referred the dispute to mediation and constituted a three-member panel to try and find a settlement to the issue. On August 2, 2019, the panel informed the Constitution Bench that mediation had failed. The bench, therefore, decided to commence hearing the appeals on their merits on a day-to-day basis.
The three-member panel of mediators comprised:
- Former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice F M Ibrahim Khaliifulah – Chairperson
- Founder of Art of Living Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – Member
- Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu – Member
The mediators had been granted liberty by the Supreme Court to co-opt other members to the panel, if so required.
While directing that the mediation be held in-camera as per the norms applicable to the conduct of mediation proceedings, the court also ordered that the views expressed by the parties, including the mediators, be kept under wraps.
The mediation proceedings were held in Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh.
The current appeals in the Supreme Court were filed against a 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment delivered in four civil suits, suggesting that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.