Ayodhya Verdict
The Supreme Court’s five-judge bench gave a unanimous judgment.

In a historic verdict, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court gave a unanimous judgment in the Ayodhya case and held that the disputed land would be given to the Hindu parties. It also ordered alternate land, measuring five acre, for the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board. The verdict was given by a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and comprised Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

The Centre, which is in possession of the disputed land, will formulate a scheme for a Board of Trustees for the construction of the temple at the disputed site. The disputed 2.77 acre land, which includes the inner and outer courtyards, will be handed over by the Centre to the trustees. The Centre will also hand over the rest of the land to the trustees.  

The trust will be set up within three months and will take over the management of the construction of the temple. In this trust, there will be appropriate representation for Nirmohi Akhara.

The bench stated that the right of the deity, Ram Lalla, to the disputed property, will depend on the maintenance of law and order, for which, the government has to take measures. 

The five-judge bench said that the Sunni Waqf Board also could not prove its exclusive right over the land and that the entire land had to be considered as a whole.

The court dismissed the Special Leave Petition(SLP) filed by Shia Waqf Board, which challenged the order of a Faizabad Court from 1946. This order stated that the property was Sunni and not Shia. 

The court also took cognisance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report of 2003, which stated that there was a structure underneath the Babri Masjid. While the report had been disputed, the SC held that this cannot be dismissed as conjecture, and that the underlying structure was not a structure with Islamic origins. The ASI did not say whether a Hindu temple was demolished to build the mosque. 

The SC held that the mosque was desecrated by placing the idols, and the demolition of mosque in December 1992 was in breach of an SC order.

Furthermore, it stated that the Allahabad High Court was wrong in splitting the site into three and awarding one-third to each party. 

The SC observed that mere existence of a structure beneath the mosque cannot lead to a title today, even if the SC finds that it was a Hindu temple.

Background

After a marathon 40-day hearing, the five-judge Bench of the apex court, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, reserved its verdict on October 16. The decades-long dispute has in the past led to communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in the country. Saturday’s verdict comes amid the disputed site being under high-security lockdown. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has deployed 4,000 paramilitary personnel in Uttar Pradesh.

At the heart of the dispute is 2.77 acres of land, considered by Hindus to be the birthplace of Ram, the deity. In the 16th century, the Babri Masjid is believed to have been built at the contested spot by one of the generals of the Mughal king Babur.

Before the dispute went to the courts, both Hindus and Muslims were using the site for worship. While Muslims were holding prayers at the Babri Masjid in the inner courtyard, Hindus were using the outer courtyard.

In 1949, an idol of Lord Ram was allegedly placed inside the mosque by Hindu activists and a message was spread that Lord Ram had miraculously appeared inside the mosque. There was a protest from the Muslim side. Both Hindus and Muslims filed a civil suit each in the court. The government had to declare the premises 'disputed area' and lock the gates until further notice.

Cases were filed in the court by the Hindu side seeking permission for the right to worship the idol in the premises. The court held back the removal of the idol and allowed the Hindus to worship. The Nirmohi Akhara became a party to the dispute in 1959 and the Sunni Waqf Board joined in 1961.

On December 6, 1992, when volunteers of fringe Hindu groups demolished the mosque, more than 2,000 died in riots that ensued across the country.

Allahabad High Court judgment

A three-judge bench comprising of SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal, and Dharam Veer Sharma of the Allahabad High Court in September 2010 said that both Hindus and Muslims are joint title holders of the land. One-third was given to each of the parties — Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board. A total of 14 appeals were filed in the Supreme Court in four civil suits, and the apex court stayed the HC’s decision in 2011.

The majority of Justices Khan and Agarwal held that the spot where below the central dome under which the idols of the deities were placed should be given to the Hindus. The Nirmohi Akhara was assigned the Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi structures (located in the outer courtyard), while the rest of the land would be given to the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board.

Among the three judges, Justice DV Sharma was the dissenting judge, who held that the Hindus had exclusive rights of the disputed land. “The disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram,” he said.

Read: Explainer: All you need to know about the Ayodhya case