The Sunni Wakf Board on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the alleged placing of idols of Hindu deities in the Babri Masjid in December 1949 was an “illegal usurpation” and sought to know whether it can create any right in favour of Hindus.
“December 22 (1949) was an illegal usurpation and using that December 22 to January 5, 1950 (when Babri Masjid was attached by the city magistrate), can your Lordships say it creates a right,” senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Board and one of the appellants, M Siddiq, told a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, is hearing appeals against the September 30, 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court for a three-way division of the disputed 2.77-acre site.
Dhavan, who had accepted that idols of Hindu deities were being worshiped in Ram Chabutara on the outer courtyard of the disputed site and that the Nirmohi Akhara had shebait rights, said this did not give them any ownership rights.
The Akhara, which was granted one-third of the disputed land by the Allahabad HC, has said that the birthplace of Ram, “now commonly known as ‘Janmabhoomi’, belongs and has always belonged” to it.
The term ‘belonging to’, as per the Akhara, extended limitation period to file lawsuit, Dhavan told the bench. “The answer is that it (land) does not belong to them and ‘Akhara’ is not the owner of the property either under the English law on trusteeship or as a ‘shebait’,” he submitted.
A shebait under Hindu law is entrusted with the task of maintaining and preserving an idol and its property.
The hearing, which started only after lunch, saw Dhavan trying to explain the concepts of continuing wrong and possession under civil law.
The arguments remained inconclusive and will resume on Thursday.
SC to hear plea for live streaming on September 16
The court also said that on September 16 it will take up a plea by social activist K N Govindacharya seeking live-streaming or recording of the ongoing hearing in the case.
Govindacharya, in his plea filed through lawyer Virag Gupta, has urged the court to at least make provision for audio-recording of the proceedings if live-streaming it is not possible. The plea stated, “The common public, which is devotee of Lord Ram, is interested in knowing how an individual can represent Lord Ram before the Supreme Court…. There are crores of persons, including the petitioner, who want to witness the proceedings in the matter but cannot do the same due to the present norms in Supreme Court. There are also others who wish to intervene and attend the proceedings but cannot do the same due to orders of this Court in the matter.”
Govindacharya recalled that the Supreme Court had in its September 2018 judgment in the Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change vs Secretary-General case ruled in favour of live-streaming in important constitutional matters. But that is yet to be implemented, he stated.
The Supreme Court, he pointed out, had said in the judgment that “sunlight is the best disinfectant. Live-streaming as an extension of the principle of open courts will ensure that the interface between a court hearing with virtual reality will result in the dissemination of information in the widest possible sense, imparting transparency and accountability to the judicial process.”