NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed all the 18 petitions seeking review of its November 9 Ayodhya land dispute verdict, all but casting in stone its 1,045-page judgement awarding the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site for a Ram Temple and five acres at an alternative location to the Sunni Wakf Board for construction of a mosque.
All the petitions seeking review of the SC’s unanimous verdict were placed before a bench of CJI S A Bobde and Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna (who filled the vacant slot in Constitution bench after retirement of then CJI Ranjan Gogoi). The bench divided the petitions into two categories — those filed by persons who were parties to any of the four title suits and others who were not but yet had sought permission to file review petitions.
Petitions filed by entities who were parties to any of the title suits — Gopal Singh Visharad (1950), Nirmohi Akhara (1959), Sunni Wakf Board (1961) and Ram Lalla Virajman (1989) — were discussed in detail by the five judges in chamber without the presence of lawyers representing any party, as is the norm for preliminary hearing on review petitions.
After deliberating on review petitions filed by some of the parties to the title suits, the bench ordered: “Applications for listing of Review Petitions in open Court are dismissed. We have carefully gone through the Review Petitions and connected papers filed therewith. We do not find any ground, whatsoever, to entertain the same. The Review Petitions are, accordingly, dismissed.”
This leaves litigants, who were parties to any of the title suits, with a small window in ‘curative petitions’ for seeking reversal of the November 9 judgement. However, given the general trend of dismissal of curative petitions, there is a very bleak chance of the SC reopening the 70-year-old litigation for a fresh hearing.
On the second category of petitions, which included petitioners like a “group of 40 intellectuals” who are not party to any of the title suits, the bench declined permission to even file a review petition. The fear expressed by the judges was that permitting non-parties would open flood-gates of litigation as it would allow any citizen to file pleas seeking a review of Ayodhya judgment, and for that matter any order.
Those who filed the non-party review petition included historian Irfan Habib, economist Prabhat Patnaik and activists Harsh Mander and Nandini Sundar.
Filing of petition by M Siddiq through advocate Ijaz Maqbool seeking review of Ayodhya verdict had led to an unpleasant controversy as senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who had argued for the Muslim parties, claimed he had been sacked from the case. The Sunni Wakf Board had dramatically agreed for a settlement by agreeing to give up its claim on the disputed land. Later, it refused to file review petition.
However, All India Muslim Personal Law Board decided to seek review while retaining Dhavan as its counsel. But, Dhavan’s expertise could not be utilised as the SC rejected plea for open court hearing and dismissed review petitions.
On November 9, the SC settled the centuries-old Hindu-Muslim conflict that lingered in courts for 70 years by handing over Ayodhya land for construction of a Ram Temple and said the Sunni Wakf Board was to be allocated five acres of land at a prominent place in the temple town for a mosque.
The unanimous verdict, with unmistakable pen-prints of Justice Chandrachud, weighed in favour of deity Ram Lalla getting the disputed land at Ayodhya because Hindu parties could produce better evidence to substantiate their rights. However, the bench was also unanimous that Muslims too established a competitive right over the disputed land and hence, used its inherent powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, to direct the Centre and UP government to allot five acres for a mosque by the Wakf Board.
The SC set aside the September 30, 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court, which had divided the core disputed area of 1,487 square yards, included in the disputed 2.77 acre land, into three equal parts and allotted one each to Ram Lalla (the area under central dome of demolished mosque), Nirmohi Akhara (outer courtyard including Ram Chabutara and Sita Rasoi) and Sunni Wakf Board.
In the SC, Nirmohi Akhara became the biggest loser as the court dismissed its 1959 suit as time-barred and refused to even recognise its right as a ‘shebait’ (priest), thus robbing it of any major role in the to-be-constructed temple.