A three-judge Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer today ruled that a larger bench need not be referred to for the 1994 Ismail Faruqui judgment. In 1994, a five-judge Supreme Court bench had held that a mosque was not an “essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam” and that namaz could be offered anywhere and hence, “its acquisition (by the state) is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India”.
What is the 1994 Ismail Faruqui judgment?
Dr Ismail Faruqui had filed a petition challenging the validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993, by which the Centre acquired 67.703 acres of land in and around the Babri Masjid.
A five-judge Bench, in a majority, upheld the acquisition, saying “any step taken to arrest escalation of communal tension… can, by no stretch of argumentation, be termed non-secular… or against the concept of secularism — a creed of the Indian people embedded in the ethos.”
In their order, they declared that namaz could be offered anywhere. The judges said, “(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”.
The bench also allowed the Centre to include the 2.77 acres (on which the Babri Masjid once stood) in the 67.7 acres of land to be acquired under the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya (ACAA) Act, 1993.
In the subsequent hearing in the Ayodhya land dispute case, in 2010 the Allahabad High Court had referred to this judgment to apportion one-third of the land to Hindus, one-third to Muslims and one-third to Lord Ram, the diety.