New Delhi: In a significant move, the government on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court, seeking permission to restore to Ram Janambhoomi Nyas the “excess” land surrounding the disputed portion in Ayodhya, triggering call for permission to begin temple construction work on the undisputed land.
The government, in a petition, sought direction for releasing 67 acres, which it had acquired about two-and-a-half decades back, around the 2.77 acres of disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed land.
The move came against the backdrop of Ram Janambhoomi Nyas making an application to the government of India, demanding the return of the undisputed part of the land to it.
Government sources said its move is a part of the constitutional route that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah have spoken about.
The sources said the petition was in pursuance to an earlier Supreme Court judgement by which the government was allowed to take a policy decision with regard to 67 acres of undisputed land.
In 1994, a five-judge Supreme Court bench had held that a mosque was not an “essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam” and that namaz could be offered anywhere and hence, “its acquisition (by the state) is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India”.
The sources said the Government of India has exercised its right created by the court itself and has shown fairness by itself proposing – leaving – (with the view to give – the extent of land required).
The architecture created by the court in Ismail Farooqui case provides the government with a window to adopt such measure, they said.
“The central government was duty bound as per para 49-59 of the Ismail Farooqui judgement. The judgement says that the government can take a policy decision and there need not be any judicial scrutiny”, according to the sources.
The sources also claimed that the Ismail Farooqui judgement is clear that the Muslims are not interested beyond the disputed area and do not lay any claim over the area acquired beyond .313 acres. It is also mentioned in para 49 of the judgment that the title of Hindus not in dispute.
Recently, the Prime Minister had said that any decision on an Ordinance on the Ram temple can be considered only after the judicial process gets over.
Significantly, the government filed the petition on a day when a new five-judge bench was to hear the Ayodhya case before it was cancelled due to unavailability of one of the judges Justice S A Bobde.
The apex court, on January 25, constituted a new five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Abdul Nazeer, Justice SA Bobde and Justice DY Chandrachud to hear the Ayodhya case.
In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had divided the disputed land in Ayodhya into three parts for each of the parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
Welcoming the government petition, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said, “Now we must get permission to work on the undisputed land.”
He said the petition is in favour of the country.
“The dispute has been going on for many years. My government has been saying this from the beginning. An application has been submitted by the Centre… We welcome this move of the central government. This was needed for the country’s prestige,” said Adityanath while addressing the media after holding a Cabinet meeting in Prayagraj, where the Kumbh mela is underway.
Commenting on the move, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav said, “A much-awaited decision because the land in question belongs to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. It was acquired in 1993. It has nothing to do with the central dispute. It is in the vicinity of the main disputed area. There is status quo ordered by SC, that’s why govt approached the court,” he said.