The Supreme Court will pronounce the much-awaited verdict on the Ayodhya title suit on Saturday, almost a decade after the Allahabad High Court had partitioned the disputed site in the ratio of 2:1 between Hindu and Muslim litigants. Both sides had then moved the top court against the judgment.
The ruling is expected to impact the course of politics in the country, given that the Ram Janmabhoomi issue is a cornerstone of the Hindutva movement and one of the longstanding pledges of the ruling BJP. It will also likely define the future of the relationship between the two communities.
The country was put on alert to prevent religious violence that could erupt following the verdict in an emotive issue that has led to some of the worst riots India has seen over the past decades. The chief justice himself held meetings with UP officials in this regard.
Hindu groups say the Babri Masjid, which stood on the site and was brought down on December 6, 1992, was built after demolishing an ancient temple that stood at the birthplace of Lord Ram.
In the high court decision, the deity itself, Ram Lalla, and the Nirmohi Akhara got two-thirds, including the land on which the structure stood.
The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board was to get a one-third share of the land from the surplus 67 acres acquired by the central government in and around the structure to facilitate entry and exit. Both sides were unhappy and moved the top court, seeking sole possession of the disputed 2.77 acres. The top court later stayed the ruling.
A five-judge bench, comprising outgoing chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, will pronounce the ruling at 10.30 am in Court 1, according to a notice issued by the court registry on Friday. Court 1 is the chief justice’s courtroom. Bobde is to take over as the next chief justice on November 18. The move came as a surprise as Supreme Court benches don’t normally function on Saturday, although the registry is open.
Gogoi’s unprecedented meeting with the Uttar Pradesh director general of police and chief secretary earlier on Friday had fanned speculation that the judgment was round the corner. The court is shut on Monday and Tuesday on account of a local holiday and Guru Nanak’s birthday, respectively.
Security was tightened throughout the country as the home ministry issued advisories to all states to keep a sharp eye on trouble-makers.
The top court will not only have to decide who owns the land but also how it will be divided. It will have to decide if the Sunni board gets any of the 2.77 acres. Legal analysts said the court will have to ensure the wording of the judgment contains language that will assuage the losing party’s sentiments. They said the court may decide to give the Sunni board land in the surplus 67 acres to build a mosque.
The court will also try and limit the decision to this case, so it can’t be used as a precedent and be extended to other parts of the country, they said. Mathura and Kashi are two sites with similar conflicts.
Representatives of both sides have also reached out to their respective communities to caution them against reacting with violence and instead accept the court verdict.
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