In Faruqui’s shade
Ayodhya title dispute needs closure
Supreme Court has dismissed the 1994 Ismail Faruqui judgment’s observation that “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of Islam and namaz” as having no bearing on the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi title suit. The order paves way for hearings in the title dispute to resume by interpreting the observations in Faruqui in the specific context of government acquiring 67 acres in and around the disputed mosque, which it said “need not be read broadly”. But beyond Ayodhya, this observation in Faruqui is at variance with a secular republic’s mandate to preserve the sanctity of religious places.
Ideally, a seven-judge constitutional bench should review the Faruqui judgment because it gives political oxygen to other historical disputes related to religious structures and raises the possibility of more Ayodhya-like cleavages. Justice Bharucha’s minority view in Faruqui had termed the Ayodhya land acquisition on grounds of preserving public order as constitutionally impermissible. He noted that when adherents of the majority religion used force of numbers to assail the place of worship of another religion and disrupt public order, it was the duty of the state to protect the place of worship, not acquire it to preserve public order.
In contrast to Faruqui, the Babri title suit must scrupulously strive to stay away from religious arguments and go strictly by property documents and civil laws.