Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Lok Sabha on Wednesday that a trust named Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Tirtha Kshetra will be handed over the whole of the 67.703 acres acquired “to maintain the sanctity of Ayodhya and for the construction of the temple, keeping in mind the needs of crores of devotees”. The trust will take independent decisions on the construction of the Ram temple and related matters, Modi said.
In its final order on the Ayodhya matter on November 9 last year, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court gave the 2.77 acres of disputed land to a trust that would construct the temple. These 2.77 acres included the 1,480 sq yards that the Babri Masjid compound occupied until the demolition of December 6, 1992. The 67 acres that have been handed to the trust are adjoining the (formerly) disputed 2.77 acres.
After kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid, the government of Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao acquired all the adjoining land around the disputed spot, for the Centre to keep and allot at its discretion. This land included other mosques, temples, farm land, and graveyards.
An Ordinance titled Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Ordinance was issued on January 7, 1993 to acquire 67.703 acres of land in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex. A reference to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution was made on the same day. The Ordinance was subsequently replaced by The Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993.
In its Ismail Faruqui judgment (Dr M Ismail Faruqui and Ors vs Union of India, October 24, 1994), the Supreme Court upheld the acquisition of the land by the Centre, but said that the land was held to enable a meaningful implementation of the final resolution of the four original suits in the Ayodhya matter. (There were five suits originally, one was withdrawn, and the Supreme Court ruled on the remaining four last year.)
“However, it is with the caveat of the Central Government’s duty to restore it to its owner, as indicated earlier, if it is found later to be unnecessary; and reservation of liberty to the owner to challenge the needless acquisition when the total need has been determined,” the court said.
There were attempts from the affected parties to get the land back.
In June 1996, the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas asked the government to return the excess land, but this request was denied “on the ground that… (it) can be considered only after the suits relating to the disputed area are adjudicated by the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court…”. (The Allahabad High Court delivered its judgment on September 30, 2010, dividing the disputed 2.77 acres equally among the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman.)
More recently, in January 2019, the central government asked the Supreme Court to allow it to “restore/revert/hand over back the superfluous/excess land” from the 67.703 acres it had acquired in 1993 to the “original owners”, including the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.
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The Centre said in its application (which, however, was not listed for hearing) that the judgment in Ismail Faruqui, which had upheld the constitutional validity of The Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993, under which the 67.703 acres were acquired, had also established that the “interest claimed by the Muslims was only over the disputed site of 0.313 acres where the disputed structure stood before its demolition”.
On Wednesday, one of the advocates on record for the Babri Masjid side between 2011 and 2019, M R Shamshad, said: “As expected, the central government has declared that the entire 67 acres would go in favour of the Ram temple Trust.” However, there were graveyards on three sides of the Babri Masjid, Shamshad said. “The central government may well have considered not using the graveyard of Muslims for constructing the grand temple of Lord Ram. Lord Ram would have never wanted this to happen.”
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