Hearing on appeals challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ayodhya case will conclude on October 17, the Supreme Court said on Friday. This is one day earlier than the October 18 deadline set earlier.
Winding up hearing on Friday, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who heads a five-judge Constitution bench hearing the dispute, asked the parties to finish their arguments by October 16 so that it can hear them on the question of relief the following day and wrap up the proceedings.
With the CJI set to retire on November 17, the bench has a little over four weeks to write and pronounce the judgment on the appeals against the Allahabad High Court verdict, which ordered a three-way division of the disputed property.
The bench also comprises Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.
On Friday, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Sunni Central Wakf Board, countered the Hindu side’s objections to his argument which referred to communal incidents of the past, and illegalities committed on the mosque.
Dhavan said senior counsel C S Vaidyanathan, appearing for Ramlalla Virajman, the deity of Ayodhya, had termed this mischievous, unfortunate and intended to promote communally divisive feelings. Dhavan submitted that “illegalities are central to the determination” of the case, and if anything was communally divisive, it was the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.
The Hindu side has claimed that the janmasthan (birthplace) is also a juristic person. The Muslim side has opposed this saying that mere belief was not enough to attribute juristic personality and there should be some manifestation.
Touching on this, Dhavan said that if belief, spirituality and sacredness are the tests, they would apply to Islam as well.
To this, Justice Bobde asked whether living beings or objects were revered in Islam, unlike Hinduism where manifestations of divinity are revered. Dhavan said both Hindus and Muslims pray to one supreme being.
Intervening, Justice Bobde said that for Muslims, prayers are “only to Allah”. Dhavan replied that while for Hindus it is “manifested through multiple forms”, for Muslims it is “manifested through multiple prayers”.
He said India is a multi-civilisation state and there is a stress on one civilisation now. He also said that there is a certain animosity for Islam today, and what the world forgets is there would have been no western science without Islamic philosophers.
Dhavan said no one is questioning that Ram was born somewhere in Ayodhya. “The dispute would not have been there but for the claim that he was born under the central dome of the Babri Masjid — that’s when Muslims said prove it.” He said this question — Ram’s birthplace — “was at the core of the dispute”.
At one point, he said both Hindus and Muslims were there at the site. To this, Justice Chandrachud said, “The moment you say that, your claim for adverse possession goes.”
The arguments remained inconclusive and will resume when the court reopens after the Durga Puja and Dussehra holidays on October 14.
Justice Chandrachud also pointed out that it was interesting that issues such as a Sikh entering the mosque and the Ram Chabutara being on the outer courtyard, etc, coincided more or less with the period during which the British gave grant to the mosque in the late 1850s.