The Supreme Court Friday assigned a plea, which challenges the constitutional validity of the 1993 law under which the Centre acquired 67.703 acres of land in Ayodhya, to the bench which will take up the appeals against the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict in the matter.
The petition by seven Lucknow residents, who claimed to be devotees of Lord Ram, came up Friday before a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, which directed that it be listed before the bench hearing the Ayodhya appeals and other connected cases.
The SC has already set up a five-judge Constitution bench – comprising the CJI and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer – to hear the appeal challenging the September 30, 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. The High Court had ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site between the Nirmohi Akhara sect; the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Uttar Pradesh; and Ramlalla Virajman.
Though the bench was scheduled to take up the matter on January 29, the same could not happen due to “non-availability” of Justice S A Bobde that day.
Friday’s petition challenging The Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993, contends that the Parliament had no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to the state, and that the state legislature had the exclusive power to make provisions relating to the management of affairs of religious institutions inside its territory.
This is the second time that the 1993 Act has come under challenge in a court of law. The first time it was challenged was in the M Ismail Faruqui vs Union of India case. In its 1994 judgement, a Constitution bench of the court had upheld the constitutional validity of the legislation.
The fresh plea says that the Act infringes upon the right to religion of Hindus, guaranteed and protected under Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution.
“The impugned Act is unreasonable and has been enacted at the cost of Hindu sentiments infringing (on) their right to religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India and as such the same is liable to be struck down,” the plea said, and urged the court to restrain the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government from interfering in “puja, Darshan and performance of rituals at the places of worship situated within the land admeasuring 67.703 acres acquired under the Act particularly at the land belonging to Shri Ram Janm Bhoomi Nyas, Manas Bhavan, Sankat Mochan Mandir, Ram Janmasthan Temple, Janki Mahal and Katha Mandap”.
The petition contends that under Article 294 of the Constitution, land within a state are vested with the state. “As such the land and property situated at Ayodhya continued to be the property of the State of Uttar Pradesh. The Union cannot take over any part of the land of the State of Uttar Pradesh including the land and property situated at Ayodhya,” it states.