SC to rule on 70-year-old Ayodhya land dispute case today, security up

NEW DELHI: In dramatic fashion, the Supreme Court notified at 9 pm on Friday that Saturday will be judgment day for the 70-year-old Ayodhya dispute involving ownership claims by Hindu and Muslim parties over an area of 1,487sq yards in the UP town.
A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer decided to deliver the verdict on a court holiday, hours after the CJI and Justices Bobde and Bhushan met the UP chief secretary and the DGP to take stock of security arrangements in Ayodhya and the state. Delhi Police too beefed up security at the judges’ houses. The announcement sharpened the suspense on the verdict, keenly awaited by both sides.
The Ayodhya dispute has been central to national politics, marking an ideological cleavage between BJP and its “secular” opponents. Several Hindu and Muslim organisations have called for calm ahead of the ruling while the Centre and states are on alert.
The notification merely said the five-judge constitution bench would deliver judgment at 10.30am on Saturday in two cases, Shia Central Board of Waqf, UP vs Sunni Central Board of Waqf, UP; and the Ayodhya land dispute case involving four suits — filed by Gopal Singh Visharad in 1950, by Nirmohi Akhara in 1959, Sunni Waqf Board in 1961 and deity Ram Lalla Virajman through next friend in 1989.
The deity and Sunni Waqf Board are locked in litigation over complete ownership over the disputed land, while Nirmohi Akhara seeks priestly rights. Gopal Singh Visharad’s claim is to continue worshipping the deity at the place where it now sits. The SC notification did not indicate if the judgment will be unanimous, or by 3-2, or 4-1 majority. However, sources told TOI that there will be more than one judgment in the case.
The centrestage on Saturday will be taken by the SC’s decision on the four suits, which were decided by the Allahabad HC on September 30, 2010.
An interesting facet will be whether SC takes into account the mediation panel’s October 16 report informing it about a settlement reached between parties through negotiation. The settlement’s main point was that Sunni Waqf Board had agreed to give up its claim over the disputed site if certain other conditions, including restoration of two dozen mosques in Ayodhya and opening up of several other mosques under ASI control for offering of prayers.
Interestingly, the SC has also listed the 2017 appeal of Shia Waqf Board, which has challenged a 1940s order of Faizabad district court dismissing its suit seeking ownership of the disputed Babri Masjid. In its arguments before the SC, Shia Waqf Board had pledged to give the disputed site to Hindus for construction of Ram temple.

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