The Supreme Court on Friday, hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, said that a 2003 Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report on the Ayodhya site was not an “ordinary opinion” since the archaeologists gave their views on the excavated material following Allahabad High Court’s directions.
Senior lawyer Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the Muslim parties, called the ASI report an opinion of archaeologists that needed to be supported by substantial proof to establish the past existence of a Ram temple at a the disputed site. In response, the five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, observed that inferences from the ASI report were drawn by "cultivated and studied minds".
Calling the report merely advisory in nature, Arora told the bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, “The 2003 ASI report is weak evidence and needs corroboration with the substantive evidence.”
“Archaeology is a subjective social science unlike physics or chemistry,” Arora argued, adding that the ASI report admits that till the Gupta period, the nature of the place was not identified. She also pointed out that it does not clarify whether a Ram Janmasthan temple existed at the site or not.
She also stated that at some place in the ASI report it has been said the Ram Chabutra in the outer courtyard was probably a water tank. "There are a lot of assumptions and presumptions in this report and the court is not bound to accept it which is advisory in nature and amounted to just an opinion," she said.
Justice Bobde said there was no other way for the court to decide which claim was true except by gauging the more reasonable inference in the absence of a “direct proof of a temple”. In response, Arora asked what was stopping the court from inferring that the structure believed to be underneath was not a Jain or Buddhist one.
Senior lawyer Shekhar Naphade made submissions on the legal aspect of res judicata on behalf of the Muslim parties. This principle under the civil law deals with the fact that a same nature of dispute cannot be adjudicated upon twice in a court of law.
Naphade argued that in 1885, one Mahant Raghuvar Das had filed a law suit seeking permission to construct a Ram temple within the disputed premises. This plea was rejected by the court. Referring to the res judicata principle, the senior lawyer said that now the Hindu parties are barred under the law to re-agitate the same dispute. “Ultimately, it boils down to whether that suit was for the benefit of Hindus or not,” he said.
On Thursday, the Muslim parties made a U-turn on questioning the authorship of the summary of the 2003 ASI report, which had held that a massive structure predated the Babri Masjid, and apologised to the top court for wasting its time. Advancing of arguments will recommence on 30 September.
The bench in the previous hearing asked both Hindu and Muslim parties to specify the time frame for completing arguments, adding that there will not be any extra day after 18 October. Which would give the judges at least a month to write their judgments before Chief Justice Gogoi retires on 17 November. “It will be miraculous, if we deliver the judgment in four weeks,” Gogoi said. In Friday’s hearing, Gogoi lamented that things are not going as per schedule after Naphade said he would need at least two hours more for his arguments and the court had thus far given him only 45 minutes.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties: the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Sep 27, 2019 19:59:20 IST