Steering clear of faith and frenzy, the Supreme Court has decided to continue hearing appeal in the Ayodhya land dispute case from early next year. A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi heard the case on October 29 for barely a few minutes before adjourning it until the first week of January 2019. A suitable bench will be constituted to hear the case when it comes up next.
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With this order of the top court, the three judges, including Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph besides the Chief Justice have virtually averted the political stakes to come in the way of hearing as these have been gathering around the case in view of the upcoming polls in a few states from November which are to be followed by the countrywide general elections in 2019.
The court’s decision on Monday has come as a disappointment to the protagonists of Ayodhya’s temple movement which invariably picks up around the time of every election. This time too the votaries of the temple in Ayodhya were critical of the court order, blaming the judges for “unnecessarily delaying” the hearing of the case which, according to them, should clear the way for the construction of a temple to commemorate the memory of Lord Rama. This, they want to be constructed at the very spot which is thought to be his birthplace and where Babari Masjid once stood until it was razed in mob frenzy in December 1992.
The apex court is now looking at the appeal brought by different parties after the Allahabad High Court judgment that had trifurcated the disputed land at Ayodhya equally into three parts which were to be shared between Sunni Muslim Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Shri Ram Lalla, the infant god who as per belief was born in Ayodhya.
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All the three parties have moved the appeal and the top court has been hearing it amid demands for expediting the hearing by the supporters of one set of parties and pleas for delinking this with electoral parties by the other. This divide is more on political lines than those between the adherents of the two faiths. And it is a fact that over the years and even through decades the Ayodhya issue has been getting greatly enmeshed with politics and more so electoral politics.
Yet, it is a fact that nearly five years ago when the BJP successfully fought the last parliamentary polls the Ayodhya issue had figured on the last pages of the party’s manifesto. It also remained on the backburner through most of the present tenure of the BJP-led Government. But with the time for another round of general elections approaching again, the BJP and its sister organisations and affiliates have started raking up the Ayodhya issue.
Often the Central Ministers and ruling party leaders like their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh demand the need for a legislation to be passed by Parliament without waiting for the court verdict to pave the way to build the temple.
This was once again the case on Monday when the top court decided to hear the case only in January, or after another two months. In the past also the Ayodhya case in the court has often been adjourned because of the heat that the temple issue generally generates. This appears to be the case even today.
Thus, the need is to first delink the Ayodhya issue from politics and it should not be allowed to write off the rule of law where title of any property has got primacy. But unlike this in case of Ayodhya, faith, belief and larger public sentiment are often cited to bolster claims over what once used to be a mosque. The net result of this has been the deepening of communal divide and increased strife in the society.
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So in a nutshell, the Ayodhya dispute has been bringing back medieval instincts in modern times. And this is clearly detrimental to all sides. It only reminds of pre-independence days when the alien power at the helm followed the policy of divide and rule. What gets badly throttled in this battle of yore is the civilized way to conduct public affairs and ensure universally accepted citizens rights through equality before law.
Thus, the law and the court should be left alone to find a way out of the badly entangled issue called Ayodhya. And the court’s verdict should be accepted in all circumstances by everybody unlike what has recently been the case with the apex court’s order vis-à-vis Sabarimala Temple in Kerala.