Union Home Minister P Chidambarams remark that there could be more than one ruling in the title suits over the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya (now deferred) stems from the fact that there are four pending suits,over 100 issues awaiting judgment by the Allahabad High Court.
Among the questions before the court are whether a temple existed at the site before 1528 when the Babri Masjid was built; whether the site is the birthplace of Ram; whether the idols were placed in the sanctum sanctorum on the night of December 22-23,1949; whether the property within the inner courtyard at the site was of the Babri Masjid and the land adjoining it a public Muslim graveyard; whether the suit filed by the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs was barred by limitation; and whether the Masjid had been abandoned by Muslims.
The title suits have been on in the courts for 60 years,but the legal battle for rights to the site began in the 19th Century. This is how it has played out over the years:
1885: The case of Raghubar Das
Mahant Raghubar Das files Suit No. 61/280 of 1885 in court of Faizabad Sub-Judge against Secretary of State,India. Seeks permission to construct a chabutra measuring 21 ft east-west and 17 ft north-south in the outer courtyard of the disputed site. On December 24,1885,Sub-Judge Hari Kishan upholds the plaintiffs claim to title and possession but dismisses the suit saying the temple would be too close to the mosque providing every likelihood of breach of peace. Raghubar Das appeals against the order in court of Faizabad District Judge.
1886: The appeal by Raghubar Das
District Judge Col FEA Chamier dismisses suit filed by Raghubar Das on March 18,1886: It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land held sacred by Hindus,but as that event occurred 356 years ago,it is too late now to remedy the grievance; all that can be done is to maintain status quo. Raghubar Das appeals before Awadh Judicial Commissioner W Young. Appeal dismissed on November 1,1886: There is nothing on record to show that plaintiff is in any… (illegible) the proprietor of the land in question.
1949: The idol installation incident
Ram Deo Dubey,Ayodhya police station in-charge,lodges an FIR on December 23,1949,against Abhiram Das,Ramsakal Das,Sudarshan Das,50-60 others. Says he had been informed by Constable Mata Prasad that these men had broken open the locks,entered the Masjid and installed an idol of Ram. Order of December 29,1949,attaches the disputed structure and places it under the custody of Receiver Priya Dutt Ram. Idol worship is ensured through a pujari appointed by the Receiver.
1950: The first title suit
Gopal Singh Visharad files Suit No. 2 of 1950 against Zahoor Ahmad and others,including State of Uttar Pradesh,Faizabad Deputy Commissioner,Faizabad Superintendent of Police. Seeks permanent injunction to restrain defendants from removing idol. Also seeks declaration that the plaintiff is entitled to perform puja and darshan by going near the Bhagwan Ram Chandra Virajman Asthan Janambhumi. Interim injunction granted by the Faizabad Civil Judge. Order modified at the instance of government counsel states: Parties are hereby restrained by means of temporary injunction to refrain from removing idols in question from site in dispute and from interfering with puja etc….
State of UP files a statement,which was verified by Faizabad Deputy Commissioner J N Ugra: That the property in suit is known as Babri mosque and it has,for a long period,been in use as a mosque for the purpose of worship by Muslims. It has not been in use as a temple of Shri Ram Chandraji… That on the night of 22nd December,1949, the idols of Shri Ram Chandraji were surreptitiously and wrongly put inside it.
1950: The second title suit (later withdrawn)
Paramhans Ramchandra Das files Suit No. 25 against Zahoor Ahmad and others,including the State of Uttar Pradesh and Faizabad Deputy Commissioner. Seeks declaration that his religious rights entitle him to go near the idol for worship. Also wants to restrain defendants from removing idols.
1959: The third title suit
On December 17,1959,the Nirmohi Akhara and its Mahant file Suit No. 26 of 1959 against Receiver Priya Dutt Ram and others,including the State of Uttar Pradesh and its officers. Suit filed in court of Faizabad Civil Judge,wants Receiver removed and property delivered to plaintiffs.
1961: The fourth title suit
The Sunni Central Board of Waqfs and others file Suit No. 12 of 1961 on December 18 against Gopal Singh Visharad and others. Seek declaration of the property within the inner courtyard as Babri Masjid and the land adjoining it as a public Muslim graveyard. Seek possession of both properties and removal of idols.
1989: The fifth title suit
Retired High Court judge Deoki Nandan Agarwal files Suit No. 236 of 1989 on behalf of Ram Lalla Virajman.
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