Ayodhya verdict is a triumph of the rule of law

India’s 1.3 billion people have welcomed the unanimous Supreme Court ruling on Saturday that cleared the way for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, above, which is regarded by Hindus as the birth place of Lord Ram.

The 1024-page ruling put an end to a 135-year-old land dispute that had torn the social fabric of the nation.

It is a victory of the rule of law, Constitution and democracy of India.

The peace reigning in the country after this historic judgement was delivered reflects the people’s high level of tolerance, broad outlook and collective wisdom to leave the past behind and move on.

The five-judge bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reached the best possible verdict on the Ram Janambhoomi- Babri Masjid land title suit after a day-to-day hearing involving the three parties — Ram Lalla, the presiding deity, the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara — for 40 days.

The judges carefully examined all facts linked to faith, history, archaeological findings and other records before reaching the verdict.

The 1989 legal suit filed by a former judge of the Allahabad high court judge on behalf of Ram Lalla sought title right over the entire 2.77-acre land.

The 1959 lawsuit filed by Nirmohi Akhara sought management and devotee rights over the land.

The 1961 lawsuit filed by Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board sought title right over the land claiming that they are its true inheritors from Mughal Emperor Babar who had built the mosque at the disputed site between 1528 and 1529.

Hindu parties involved in the dispute believe the Babri mosque, named after Babar, was built on the spot where Lord Ram was born and where a temple dedicated to Him once stood.

They also believe the mosque was built by the Mughal ruler after destroying the Ram temple. Hence, over centuries, they had been offering prayers to the deity in the outer courtyard of the mosque until the entire structure was razed by a Hindu mob in December 1992.

On Saturday, the Supreme Court set aside a 2010 ruling by the   Allahabad High Court which said the site should be equally divided among the three parties.

The top court gave the entire 2.77-acre land to Hindus to construct a Ram temple.

It also ordered that an alternative 5-acre land should be given to the Sunni Central Waqf Board in Ayodhya as restitution for the wrong done by the Hindu mob by razing the mosque.

Nirmohi Akhara’s petition seeking management and devotee rights of the land was dismissed on the ground that the suit was filed in 1959 and the period of limitation was six years.

For Hindus, the court ruling allowing the building of a Ram temple at the spot where they believe the deity was born came as a dream come true. They had been waiting for this verdict for 70 years.

For Muslims, an alternative site has been offered to build a mosque in Ayodhya. This is expected to heal their wounds caused by the mosque demolition. The court observed that a wrong committed must be remedied.

While some Muslim groups have welcomed the court ruling, others such as India Muslim Personal Law Board (IMPLB) and all India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) have partly opposed it. They do not want the 5-acre alternative land since they were expecting a favourable judgement to rebuild the mosque at the disputed site.

As for Nirmohi Akhara, they are happy that Ram Lalla has won.

The court has directed the union government to set up a trust within three months to formulate plans for temple construction.

The Ayodhya case reached the top court after the three parties involved in the title dispute objected to the 2010 Allahabad High Court ruling which said the disputed land should be equally divided among them.

The parties had agreed to accept the Supreme Court’s final decision on the title suit. Hence, none of them have any reason to complain against Saturday’s ruling.

Murmurs of discontent are coming from some outside groups which want to incite a community. The leader of AIMIM, Asaduddin Owaisi, commented that the ruling was based on faith and not facts. This is wrong, misleading and dangerous.

The Supreme Court, in its judgement, clearly stated that it did not decide title on the basis of faith or belief but on the basis of evidence.

For instance, it cited the report by the Archaeological Survey of India which said the structure found during excavation at the disputed site was not Islamic. This proves beyond doubt that the Babri mosque was not constructed on vacant land.

The ruling also said the Muslims offered no evidence to suggest that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure of the mosque from the date of its construction (1528-1529) to 1857 when a grill-brick wall was set up dividing the inner and outer courtyards after a communal clash in 1855.

However, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued even after the grill-brick wall came up.

The ruling said the structure of the mosque continued to exist after the construction of the grill-brick wall and there is evidence to suggest that namaz (prayer) was offered within its precincts until December 1949 when the mosque was desecrated by the installation of Hindu idols.

Legal proceedings were initiated and worship of Hindu idols was permitted after the attachment of the inner courtyard and appointment of a receiver.

The ruling notes that the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in 1992 by the Hindu mob in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship.

The Ayodhya title suit was a highly sensitive case and India’s top court handled it very sensibly based on facts.

The people of the country showed great maturity by welcoming the verdict.