SC to de­liver judg­ment in ti­tle suit; PM Modi ap­peals for peace, har­mony

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Front Page - let­[email protected]­dus­tan­ HT Cor­re­spon­dents

A five-judge Con­sti­tu­tion bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Jus­tice of In­dia (CJI) Ran­jan Go­goi will de­liver one of the most an­tic­i­pated court ver­dicts on Satur­day when it rules on the Ram Jan­mab­hoomi-Babri Masjid ti­tle suit in the ju­di­cial cul­mi­na­tion of a tin­der­box dis­pute that has for decades riven the na­tion on re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal lines.

The bench, also com­pris­ing jus­tices SA Bobde, DY Chan­drachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, is ex­pected to pro­nounce its judg­ment at 10.30am. A no­tice on the pro­nounce­ment of the judg­ment was put up on the of­fi­cial web­site of the Supreme Court late on Fri­day evening.

The judges wrapped up a marathon, some­times ac­ri­mo­nious 40-day hear­ing on Oc­to­ber 16 by re­serv­ing its judg­ment, which was ex­pected to be de­liv­ered next week be­fore Go­goi re­tires on Novem­ber 17.

It was ad­vanced to Satur­day af­ter Go­goi met top of­fi­cials of the Ut­tar Pradesh govern­ment, in­clud­ing chief sec­re­tary Ra­jen­dra Ku­mar Ti­wari and po­lice chief, di­rec­tor gen­eral of po­lice (DGP) Om Prakash Singh, in his cham­bers on Fri­day for an as­sess­ment of the sit­u­a­tion in Ay­o­d­hya, where the dis­puted site is lo­cated, and else­where in In­dia’s most pop­u­lous state.

The pro­nounce­ment of the ver­dict on a non-work­ing day, Satur­day, by the Supreme Court took some mem­bers of the le­gal fra­ter­nity by sur­prise.

“In nearly 30 years of my prac­tice at the top court, I do not re­call the court de­liv­er­ing the ver­dict on a hol­i­day. But I wel­come the move by the court... ac­cord­ing to me, the idea is to min­imise the pos­si­ble fall­out of a ver­dict on such a sen­si­tive is­sue,” said Sanjay Hegde, se­nior ad­vo­cate at the Supreme Court.

Ad­vo­cate Vishnu Jain of the Hindu Mahasabha, which is a party to the dis­pute, said it was a wel­come move. “We were any­way wait­ing for the pro­nounce­ment of the judg­ment and we be­lieve that this ver­dict will put to rest a 135- year-old dis­pute. I think this move to de­liver the ver­dict on a hol­i­day is be­cause of se­cu­rity rea­sons. On a non- work­ing day there are less ad­vo­cates in the court and its easy to man­age the crowd in the court room,” he said.

An­other lawyer, MR Shamshad, who rep­re­sented Mus­lim par­ties in the case, said it would have been bet­ter had the ver­dict been de­layed, not­ing that over the next two days, pro­ces­sions would be taken out for Prophet Muham­mad’s birth­day at many places in the coun­try.

“It would have been bet­ter if it had been pro­nounced two days later,” he said, adding: “I am sure that the ad­min­is­tra­tion will en­sure law and or­der sit­u­a­tion and the pro­ces­sion will go on as usual.”

In a tweet late on Fri­day, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ap­pealed for peace and har­mony. “The ver­dict will not be some­one’s loss or vic­tory. I ap­peal to coun­try­men to en­sure that the tra­di­tion peace, unity and har­mony in the coun­try is up­held,” he said.

The Con­sti­tu­tion bench headed by CJI Go­goi has heard a batch of cross-ap­peals against a 2010 Al­laba­had high court judg­ment. The orig­i­nal ver­dict or­dered the di­vi­sion of the dis­puted 2.77 acres of land in Ay­o­d­hya into three equal parts to be di­vided among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nir­mohi Akhara, a re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tion; and the Ram Lalla Vi­ra­j­man, which rep­re­sents the child de­ity.

A large sec­tion of Hin­dus be­lieves that the dis­puted site marks the birth­place of the war­rior-god Ram and that a tem­ple that stood on the lo­ca­tion was de­stroyed in the 16th cen­tury dur­ing the rule of Mughal em­peror Babar.

A mosque, the Babri Masjid, was con­structed on its ru­ins. On De­cem­ber 6, 1992, Hindu ac­tivists cam­paign­ing for the con­struc­tion of a Ram tem­ple on the site de­mol­ished the mosque, trig­ger­ing a cy­cle of vi­o­lence and ri­ots across the coun­try.

As night fell on Fri­day, a top se­cu­rity alert was in place na­tion­wide to pre­vent vi­o­lence on the day of the most an­tic­i­pated court ver­dict in In­dia ever in a case that both Hindu and Mus­lim com­mu­nity lead­ers have fol­lowed in­tently.

Se­cu­rity was re­in­forced at the res­i­dences of all five judges of the Supreme Court bench, a Delhi Po­lice of­fi­cer said on con­di­tion of anonymity. The Ut­tar Pradesh govern­ment or­dered all schools, col­leges and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to be shut till Mon­day. In Delhi, the govern­ment is­sued an ad­vi­sory for schools to close as a pre­cau­tion.

“Delhi Po­lice is plan­ning elab­o­rate po­lice ar­range­ments and all pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures will be taken. Nec­es­sary ar­range­ments will be made to en­sure the safety and se­cu­rity of re­li­gious places. Field for­ma­tions will re­main in con­tact with stake­hold­ers and meet­ings will be con­ducted with ‘aman com­mit­tees’ com­pris­ing the re­specta­bles from dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties,” Delhi Po­lice said in a state­ment. Ay­o­d­hya was sealed by se­cu­rity forces who warned res­i­dents to stay in­doors and shops to be shut. Se­cu­rity was re­in­forced by the Govern­ment Rail­way Po­lice (GRP) force at the Ay­o­d­hya rail­way junc­tion, where quick re­sponse teams were in po­si­tion, said Sau­mi­tra Ya­dav, su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice of the GRP in Lucknow.

Over 90 com­pa­nies of armed po­lice, or around 9,500 men, in­clud­ing troop­ers from 37 UP Pro­vin­cial Armed Con­stab­u­lary (PAC) and cen­tral para­mil­i­tary forces, had al­ready been de­ployed in Ay­o­d­hya district ahead of the Supreme Court ver­dict.

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