In what is being looked at as a major step towards early resolution of the century-old Ayodhya temple-mosque dispute, the Supreme Court on Thursday declined to refer to a five-judge constitutional bench a plea relating to the matter.
The apex court, in a majority judgment held that its 1994 judgement in the Dr M Ismail Faruqui versus Union of India case, which said that a mosque was not integral to Islam, need not be revisited.
In a majority verdict of 2:1, the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the civil suit has to be decided on the basis of evidence and the previous verdict has no relevance to it.
Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the judgment for himself and the CJI, said it has to find out the context in which the five-judge had delivered the 1994 judgment. He held that questionable observation in the 1994 case cannot be interpreted as a sweeping observation about the entire religion but it was only related to acquisition of land held by religious authorities.
The majority judgment held that there was no need to refer the matter to a larger constitutional bench. The apex court said now the civil suit on land dispute will be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on 29 October as Misra will retire on 2 October as the Chief Justice of India.
Dissenting judge says Faruqui verdict permeated Allahabad HC order
Meanwhile, Justice S Abdul Nazeer disagreed with the two judges and said whether mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering belief of religion and it requires detailed consideration.
He referred to the recent Supreme Court order on female genital mutilation and said the present matter be heard by larger bench. He held that the questionable observations in the 1994 Supreme Court ruling already seems to have permeated the Allahabad High Court judgement in 2010.
He held that the 1994 judgment should be put through the 'essentiality test' on religious matters, as defined in the Shirur Mutt case of 1954.
In the Shirur Mutt case, the Supreme Court had held that the term 'religion' will cover all rituals and practices 'integral' to it. The apex court took upon itself the responsibility of determining what is integral. The court said that the question of religion would be decided by taking into consideration what the religious denomination considered essential or crucial. This was called the 'essentiality test'.
The issue whether mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when he three-judge bench headed by CJI Misra was hearing the batch of appeals filed against the Allahabad High Court's 2010 verdict by which the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area was divided in three parts.
On 30 September 2010, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court gave a verdict which said that Hindus and Muslims were joint title-holders of the disputed land.
The three-judge bench — comprising Justice SU Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice DV Sharma — ruled in favour of a division of the land in a majority 2:1 judgment, with one-third going to the Sunni Waqf Board, one-third to the Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the party for Ram Lalla. The dissenting judge gave all the land to Hindus. The apex court had, however, suspended the ruling in 2011 after the Hindu and Muslim groups had appealed against verdict.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Sep 27, 2018 16:47:02 IST