Day two of the Ayodhya case hearing in Supreme Court did not go quite well for the Nirmohi Akhara. The petitioner, which has been a party in the case since decades, could not produce any revenue records or oral evidence to establish its possession over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed site in Ayodhya.
The bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which clarified that it would decide on the legal possession of the site first, told the Hindu body that it will have to "establish" its case. However, when the Akhara submitted that they had lost all documents in a dacoity in the year 1982, the court told them that they were underprepared for the hearing and moved on to hear the next petitioner's case.
On day 1 of the hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, senior advocate Sushil Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akhara, appealed to the five-judge bench for control and management of the entire disputed 2.77-acre land, saying Muslims had not been allowed to enter the premises since 1934.
The bench — also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer — had last Friday taken note of the report of the three-member mediation panel, headed by former apex court judge FMI Kalifulla, that the mediation proceedings, which went on for about four months, have not resulted in any final settlement.
Nirmohi Akhara says suit was filed within the prescribed time limit
Jain advanced his arguments to argue that the petition filed by Nirmohi Akhara was well within the time limit prescribed by the Limitation Act, 1963. He argued, "The suit was within limitation since the cause of action would arise only after the final order was passed by the magistrate."
However, when Jain referred to Article 47 of the Limitations Act as a safety net for the Nirmohi Akhara's case, Justice Bhushan said that if the petitioner was relying on that particular clause of the law, the limitation would be applicable on them. Or else, the Nirmohi Akhara's suit "will be covered under another article" altogether. So they "cannot rely on 47", The Leaflet reported.
Jain, in response, said, "My case is that there is no bar for me (Nirmohi Akhara) under Article 47. The limitation would not start at all."
CJI Gogoi weighed in the matter at this point and said that the bench reserved the right to reject Jain's argument that Article 47 is applicable on this case.
Nirmohi Akhara reiterated that its claim was based on the fact that it had the disputed land in possession for a long time. "Our claims of ownership stem from our possession. We had been in possession (of the inner courtyard and the Ram Janmabhoomi) for the longest time," Jain was quoted as saying by reports.
"Obstruction to worship and prayer is what forced Nirmohi Akhara to file the civil suits," Jain added.
Parallel to the arguments on the limitations and the Nirmohi Akhara's right to file civil suits, Jain also argued that the petitioner is also a respondent in suits filed by others, which would also give them a "right to present their claims".
CJI tells Nirmohi Akhara to be consistent in presenting citations
When Jain said that he would refer to two judgments, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the Muslim parties, interjected and said that he should be given copies of the judgment too. "There is a principle in this court that copies are to be given. I am entitled to read what is handed to my lords," Dhavan said.
Agreeing with him, Gogoi admonished Jain and said that he should be consistent in what he was referring to, and should provide copies of each citation/ documents to the other parties and the bench. The CJI directed Jain to refer only to the documents, copies of which have already been provided to all those present in the court.
The bench also rapped the lawyer for the confusion over citations and judgments being relied upon by him. "What is this confusion every time you want to cite something? Please be clear and consistent or we will stop looking into these citations. You should really come prepared Mr Jain," the bench said.
Nirmohi Akhara says 'shebaitship' is not the same as trusteeship
The Nirmohi Akhara also argued that there was a difference between a shebait and a trustee of a temple. A 'shebait' is an "agent of the idol of a temple", according to legal terms. A shebait means an officer to whom the service of a deity and the management of his property are vested. However, the legal character of the role could be difficult to establish with precision and exactitude.
Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akhara argued that the role of a shebait is not the same as that of a trustee of a temple, The Leaflet reported. "In a Hindu temple the entire property is vested with the diety and the shebait is in charge of its management. Therefore shebiatship cannot be simply termed as 'office', Jain said.
"The shebait enjoys some sort of rights to the property which are akin to proprietary rights. It is not just a post but proprietary rights are blended with it. That, my lords, is shebaitship," he added.
Therefore, the lawyer argued, the Nirmohi Akhara's right of management, and not just its right of possession, has "also been curtailed" by the disputed structure. Jain relied upon Article 142 in making these submissions.
In response, Justice Chandrachud said that a shebait could be entitled to conducting worship in the temple without being in its possession. Chandrachud also added that if Jain's reference to Article 142 was to be admitted, it would also mean that Nirmohi Akhara would only have 12 years from the time of dispossession.
Justice Chandrachud said, "(Article) 142 speaks of possession of immovable property but does not talk about its management. So possession of property and management of worship (rituals) are two different things."
CJI demands proof of possession from Nirmohi Akhara
The Supreme Court demanded that Jain present either oral or documentary evidence that Nirmohi Akhara was in possession of the Ram Janmabhoomi. CJI Gogoi said, "Do you have oral or documentary proof, revenue records, of possession of Ramjanmabhoomi before its attachment?"
However, the lawyer replied that the records had been lost in a dacoity in 1982. The bench then added, "For the next two hours, we want to see documentary and oral evidence only. If not, we will proceed to the next case."
Nirmohi Akhara asks for more time to present evidence, next petitioner begins arguments
The Constitution Bench said that the counsel for the Nirmohi Akhara, who has been presenting his arguments since the hearings began on Tuesday, was underprepared to present satisfactory evidence to back their claims in the Ayodhya land dispute case.
When the bench questioned Jain about who was paying the land revenue for the disputed 2.77 acres of land, he said that the documents he was referring to hadn't been submitted, but only exhibited.
In response, Justice Nazeer said, "Exhibit is one thing, and have they (the documents) been proved, corroborated? What is this Mr Jain?", to which Justice Bobde added, "Mr Jain, what we'll do is we will start Suit No 5 and hear a reply by Dr Dhawan, in the meantime you prepare yourself."
The Supreme Court then proceeded with submissions of deity Ram Lalla. Justice Chandrachud has also asked the counsel for a tabulated chart.
Counsel for deity Ram Lalla begins arguments
Senior advocate K Parasaran for the deity Ram Lalla started advancing submissions in the Ayodhya case, soon after the Supreme Court asked the Nirmohi Akhara to resubmit its arguments after better preparation.
Reportedly, Gogoi told Parasaran that he could sit and argue, in view of his age and seniority. However, Parasaran replied that "he will be on his legs while arguing for Ram Lalla". He added, "Tradition of this court and Bar constrain me to defy my age."
Beginning his arguments, Parasaran responded to the apex court's queries on documentary evidence and said that it would be difficult to prove that Lord Ram had been born at the site "after so many centuries". However, he said, the "unshakeable faith" of the worshippers and believers is "evidence" that the "sthan is the birthplace of Ram".
"Ram Janmabhoomi has become the personification of the deity, it has become an object of worship for Hindus," he said. "In Valmiki Ramayana also, it is mentioned in three places that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya," he added.
Justice Bobde, in response, asked, "Has such a question regarding the place of birth of a prophet or god arisen before any court before? Whether issues like birth of Jesus Christ at Bethlehem have been questioned and dealt with by any court in the world?" Parasaran said he would check and revert to the court.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Aug 08, 2019 16:18:08 IST