In granting five acres of land in Ayodhya, but outside the disputed area, to Muslim parties, the Supreme Court used extraordinary powers granted to it by Article 142 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.
It said that “justice would not prevail if the court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law”.
“The Constitution postulates the equality of all faiths. Tolerance and mutual co-existence nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people,” the court said.
Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
The provision that vests sweeping powers in the Supreme Court for the end of ensuring “complete justice” has been used generally in cases that involve human rights and environmental protection.
This was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over an immovable property, involving private parties. It said that while the court’s power under Article 142 “is not limitless”, it “embodies both the notion of justice, equity and good conscience as well as a supplementary power to the court to effect complete justice”.
In fact, it wasn’t just for the Muslim parties that the SC invoked Article 142. The same article was invoked in the case of the Nirmohi Akhara, who were party to the case.
The Akhara will now be part of the board, which will formulate the scheme for the construction of the temple.
“…Having regard to the historical presence of Nirmohi Akhara at the disputed site and their role, it is necessary for this Court to take recourse to its powers under Article 142 to do complete justice. Hence, we direct that in framing the scheme, an appropriate role in the management would be assigned to the Nirmohi Akhara,” the Bench said.
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