Centre wants 'excess' land acquired in Ayodhya returned to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas: What is the 'non-disputed' area?

The Narendra Modi government has filed a writ petition, requesting the Supreme Court to modify a 2003 order on a plot in Ayodhya. The Centre has sought the release of "surplus", "non-disputed" land from the 67 acres it had acquired near the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, of which around 0.313 acres is the disputed land, as mentioned in the petition.

The controversy around Ayodhya has existed for decades. In December 1949, Hindu devotees placed idols inside the mosque at the disputed site in Ayodhya. The plot was subsequently attached under Section 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Interim orders, which were passed in the civil suits that followed, restrained the parties from removing the idols from the mosque or interfering with their worship. So in effect, the structure was not used as a mosque from 23 December, 1949, till 6 December 1992, when it was demolished by Hindu 'karsevaks'.

The Ayodhya dispute case is basically about who is the rightful owner of the 2.77 acres of land, which includes the 0.313 acres where the dome of the masjid stood and its surrounded areas.

What is the 'non-disputed' plot in Ayodhya that the Centre is referring to?

Centre wants excess land acquired in Ayodhya returned to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas: What is the non-disputed area?

File image of Hindu activists gathered on top of a portion of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. AFP

The Centre had acquired 67.703 acres in Ayodhya, including the site where the Babri Masjid stood, by the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993. In its writ petition, the government has now said that as the dispute pertains to only the 0.313 acres where the mosque once stood, the "surplus" and "excess" land should be allowed to be transferred to its rightful owners.

In 2003, the Supreme Court denied permission for a 'Shila Pujan' ceremony to be organised at Ayodhya for the construction of a Ram temple, and ordered a status quo on both the disputed site and the 67-odd acres of acquired land.

In their latest petition, the Centre wants to release this land to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a trust set up to promote and oversee the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. It referred to the Supreme Court's Ismail Faruqui judgment from 1994, which said that the State could consider returning the 67 acres of acquired land surrounding the disputed plot after the Allahabad High Court passed its order on the civil suits pertaining to the Ayodhya case.

The 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment was on the dispute over whether the 2.77 acres belongs to the Sunni Central Waqf Board, the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha or Ram Lalla. In its verdict, the court had ruled that the portion below the central dome under which Hindu devotees had placed the idols of Lord Ram and other gods belonged to Hindus.

Now, among the appeals in the Supreme Court are petitions filed by the Sunni Waqf Board and Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, challenging the high court order dividing the 2.7 acres equally among the two parties and Ram Lalla.

In its writ petition, referring to the Ismail Faruqi case, the Centre pointed out that as the Allahabad High Court had given its verdict and appeals against the ruling are pending before the Supreme Court, it won't serve any purpose for the Centre to keep the "excess" land in its control, and that it would be better to return it to its original owners. The government also assured the court that it will provide an entrance and exit path to the disputed site so that whosoever wins the Ayodhya title suit does not lose access to the core 0.313 acres because of the transfer of the surrounding 67 odd acres to the Ram Janmabhoomi trust.

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Updated Date: Jan 29, 2019 13:10:35 IST

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