Ayodhya verdict: Unprecedented move by judges

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the ruling in the Ayodhya land dispute case, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, CJI-designate S A Bobde and Justice Ashok Bhushan got an unprecedented briefing from UP’s chief secretary and director general of police on Friday on steps taken to ensure law and order in Ayodhya.
Despite comforting words from Hindu and Muslim leaders to the faithful to take the verdict with equanimity and peace, the CJI and the two other judges thought it fit to understand from the top bureaucrat and policeman about deployment of security forces in sensitive areas to prevent any untoward situation in Ayodhya or any part of the state. The judges are part of the five-judge bench which will deliver its verdict on the case on Saturday.
The other two judges are Justices D Y Chandrachud and S Abdul Nazeer. The chief secretary and the DGP informed the CJI, in a closed-door meeting that lasted more than an hour, about deployment of over 4,000 paramilitary forces in Ayodhya. The judges were also informed that Rapid Action Force would keep continuous vigil at 78 hotspots identified by the administration going by past experience of such situations.
The top SC judges were also briefed about crowd management during the Kartik Purnima snan(bath) falling on November 11, for which thousands of devotees have descended on the temple town. The chief secretary informed that the state has issued warnings against circulation of fake news, morphed pictures, doctored videos or any inflammatory material, which would attract strong penal action.
What prompted the judges to assure themselves about the steps on the law and order situation with regard to the Ayodhya verdict is not difficult to guess. Prior to demolition of the disputed structure in December 1992, the UP government had acquired the land around the structure for construction of amenities for pilgrims. This was challenged both in Allahabad HC and the SC and both had passed status quo orders as regards the land.
However, despite an undertaking given by then CM Kalyan Singh to maintain status quo, large-scale construction of a permanent nature were carried out on the land in Ayodhya to facilitate ‘parikrama’ facilities for pilgrims in complete disregard of the SC’s November 15, 1991 order. Later, the devotees constructed a platform at the disputed site.
The apex court held Kalyan Singh guilty of contempt on October 24, 1994, and said: “It is unhappy that a leader of a political party and chief minister has to be convicted of an offence of contempt of court. But it has to be done to uphold the majesty of law.” The SC sentenced him to a day’s imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 2,000.

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