[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case has captured the imagination of India since early 1990s. Against the background of a growing Hindutva movement and calls for the temple to be built, the Supreme Court’s proceedings on the case are being closely watched nationly and internationally.
What is the Babri Masjid case?
The Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case is centred around the belief that Lord Ram was born in a Treta Yuga 9,00,000 years ago. According to Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla, the deity, the room was located under the central dome of the Babri Masjid. The masjid was built in the 16th century under the rule of Mughal Emporer Babur. The structure occupied 1,482.5 square yards before it was destroyed by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992.
By order of the Supreme Court on March 13 and 14, 2002, the Centre acquired 67 acres of the site.
The case for who would occupy the site of Babri Masjid was fought in the Allahabad High Court. On September 30, 2010, by a three-judge bench of the court, which said the “world knows” the birthplace of Ram, the site was divided equally between the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla, the deity.
After that, the Sunni Waqf Board and others appealed the Allahabad HC judgment before the Supreme Court of India. In May 2011, the top court called the Allahabad HC judgment a “leap of faith” and ordered a stay of the HC order.
The stay meant the status quo would continue, which was that a single priest would conduct worship in a makeshift temple on the disputed site. This practice was legitimised by the Ayodhya Act of 1993.
In December 2017, the top court ordered the matter on the title dispute to be heard on February 8, 2018. One day before the 25th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid, the apex court began final hearings of the civil appeals. Much of the case relies on documents dating as far back as the 16th century.
On March 9, 2018, amid much reservations from all parties, the Supreme Court sent the matter for mediation.
A three-member panel was set up to resolve the issue. Headed by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice FMI Kalifulla, other panel members, included Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and lawyer Sriram Panchu. The top court ordered the mediation panel to submit a report on the case before in within four weeks. The court also restrained media from reporting on the mediation.
On August 2, 2019, the Chief Justice of India said mediation had failed. The matter was fixed for daily hearings from August 6, 2019.
How did the Babri Masjid dispute start?
The dispute over the land where Babri Masjid used to stand, began in 1949 when Gopal Simla Visharad filed a civil suit before a Faizabad court for the right to perform puja to Ram Lalla on the site. Then, Paramahansa Ramachandra Das filed a case asking for the puja to continue and to keep idols of Lord Rama in the structure.
A third civil suit was filed in 1959 by the Nirmohi Akhara. The case sought a court direction to give over the charge of the disputed land. In 1961, the UP Sunni Central Wakf Board filed the fourth suit for declaration and possession.
In 1986, the district court directed the site to be opened to Hindu worshippers and that the locks on the area be removed.
The fifth case was filed in the name of Ram Lalla Virajman in 1989.
In 1991, the Uttar Pradesh government acquired land around the original structure.
In 1993, the Centre took over 67 acres around the area. The government also sought an opinion from the Supreme Court on whether a Hindu place of worship existed on the site before Babri Masjid was built.
In 1994, the litigation reached the Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench. These suits were heard until September 2010.
Why is this case critical?
The Ram temple was a significant part of the BJP election manifesto. With the increasing momentum of the Hindutva movement in India, voices calling for a temple on the disputed site have increased. Against this backdrop, the Supreme Courts final order on the title suit will be a deciding factor.
Furthermore, in April 201 7, the top court ordered a revival of the criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti.
In May 2017, a special court said was “sufficient evidence on record to frame charges” against them under conspiracy and other charges. On July 19, 2019, the Supreme court ordered the special court complete the trial against LK Advani and other accused within nine months. The matter is pending.
Following the failure of the mediation, the court is listening to the title dispute on a day-to-day basis since August 6, 2019.