NEW DELHI, Sept 27:
The Supreme Court today declined to refer to a larger bench the “questionable observation” in its 1994 verdict that “mosque is not an essential part of the practice of Islam”, paving the way for the apex court to hear the politically sensitive main Ayodhya title suit from October 29.
Holding that the earlier observation was made in the limited context of “land acquisition” during the hearing of the Ayodhya case, the top court in a 2-1 verdict made it clear it will not have any bearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute whose outcome will be eagerly awaited ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The judgement was welcomed by the RSS and the BJP as well as Muslim groups for different reasons.
A Muslim group had assailed the observation made by a five-judge Constitution bench in 1994 in the Ismail Faruqui case and had sought its reconsideration on the grounds it had affected the decision of the High Court in the land dispute and may affect the pending appeals in the apex court.
The majority verdict by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Ashok Bhushan declined the plea of M Siddiq, one of the original litigants of the Ayodhya case who has died and is being represented through his legal heir, that the matter be referred to a larger bench.
However, Justice S Abdul Nazeer, the third judge, who dissented with the majority view, in a stinging judgement said the question whether mosque was essential part of the religion cannot be decided without a “detailed examination of the beliefs, tenets and practice of the faith” and favoured reconsideration of the issue to a larger bench.
He referred to the recent Supreme Court order on female genital mutilation and said the present matter be heard by a larger bench.
Justice Nazeer also said the questionable observation of 1994 verdict had permeated into the Allahabad High Court’s decision in the land dispute case but this view was rejected by the majority.
In this context, he also highlighted the observations of the high court judge S A Khan that mosque is not integral to Islam.
The apex court said now the civil suit on land dispute will be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29 as Justice Misra will retire on October 2 as the CJI.
It also emphasised that all religions have to be respected equally by the State.
“All mosques, all churches and temples are significant for the community.”
“We welcome this decision(to start the hearing) and are confident that a just verdict will be reached in the case at the earliest,” the Sangh said in a statement.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said it is for the country’s benefit that the Ayodhya issue is resolved quickly. “The majority of this nation wants a solution to this at the earliest.”
The Congress stressed that all sides should agree to the verdict that will be pronounced on main title suit.
Khaliq Ahmad Khan, the nominee of Maulana Mahfuzur Rahman — one of the litigants in the title suit, welcomed the ruling that the 1994 judgement was related to the land acquisition and that it has no connection with the title suit.
Iqbal Ansari, another litigant from the Sunni Central Waqf Board, expressed happiness that the case will be heard on the basis of the claims of land ownership and not on religious beliefs.
“We again make it clear that questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui’s case were made in context of land acquisition. Those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals,” said Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the operative part of the 111-page judgement written for the CJI and himself.
“In view of our foregoing discussions, we are of the considered opinion that no case has been made out to refer the Constitution Bench judgment of this Court in Ismail Faruqui case for reconsideration,” Justice Bhushan said.
The issue whether mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when a three-judge bench headed by CJI Misra was hearing a batch of appeals filed against the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict by which the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area was divided into three parts.
The three-Judge High Court bench, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered that the 2.77 acres of land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The 1994 verdict had said: “A 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. In the same case, the court allowed acquisition of the disputed 2.77 acres where the Babri Masjid stood before it was pulled down on December 6, 1992 by hundreds of kar sewaks that triggered communal riots across the country.
Justice Bhushan dealt in detail with the 1994 verdict and said it pertained to the Centre’s decision to acquire around 67 acre land including the disputed site at Ayodhya.
“…The statement that a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of religion of Islam is in context of issue as to whether the mosque, which was acquired by Act, 1993 had immunity from acquisition,” Justice Bhushan said adding, it had no bearing in the land dispute.(PTI)
NEW DELHI, Sept 27: