The Supreme Court will likely decide on January 10 when it will start hearing appeals challenging the Allahabad High Court order in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
The matter was listed on Friday before a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul for fixing a date for further hearing.
The bench concluded the proceedings with: “Further orders in the matter will be passed on 10.1.2018 by the appropriate bench, as may be be constituted.” This means the bench that would hear the matter will be in place by January 10, and it will decide the schedule for further hearing.
The court had fixed Friday’s date on October 29, 2018, declining the Uttar Pradesh government’s request to take up the matter urgently. Hearing on the appeals, which were filed in 2010, got delayed for various reasons. Although it came up for consideration in 2017, the hearing dragged further — initially since the documents had not been fully translated, and later because one of the parties supporting the mosque questioned the findings of the SC Constitution bench in 1994 in the Dr M Ismail Faruqui etc. vs Union Of India And Others case.
What was challenged was a statement in the Faruqui judgment that a mosque was not an “essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”.
However, the SC rejected this in a majority 2-1 verdict on September 27, 2018. The court observed, “To conclude, we again make it clear that questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui’s case were made in context of land acquisition…(and that) those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals.”
The judges added, “The observation need not be read broadly to hold that a mosque can never be an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”.
Dismissal of the plea to refer the matter to a larger bench cleared the way for the beginning of the final hearing of the appeals.
On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77-acre the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and the Ramlalla Virajman.
The Faruqui verdict came on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993, under which 67.703 acres were acquired in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by then CJI M N Venkatchalliah had then held, “Under the Mahomedan Law applicable in India, title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession…. If that is the position in law, there can be no reason to hold that a mosque has a unique or special status, higher than that of the places of worship of other religions in secular India to make it immune from acquisition by exercise of the sovereign or prerogative power of the State. A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India.”