Show maturity

The supreme court has done well to clear the way for the verdict in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case after rejecting a plea for its deferment.

The Allahabad high court was to have  pronounced its verdict in the 60-year-old case but for a private plea for  postponement and the supreme court agreeing to the plea. But the court has now accepted the legal and substantive issues raised by the Attorney-General of India and the parties to the case, who do not want the uncertainty to continue any longer. The court was reminded of the judicial principle that a verdict cannot be held hostage by its imagined consequences. The judicial process should be free and should not be influenced by extraneous considerations.

The country has moved far forward from the rabid days of communal mobilisation and polarisation based on the Ayodhya dispute two decades ago. The dispute has lost much of its potency even for the Hindutva parties, mainly the BJP, which had squeezed the juice out of it and made political gains. However there is even a realisation that politicisation of the dispute has been counter-productive. Both sides to the dispute have declared that they are ready and waiting for the verdict. There is also the opportunity for both sides to go in for an appeal in the higher court if they are not satisfied with the judgement. The local representatives of the two communities,  Hashim Ansari, who is the oldest surviving petitioner in the original title suit, and Satyendra Das, the head priest of the makeshift temple at the disputed site, have even said that they would accept the high court verdict as final and would not go in for an appeal. The argument that courts cannot sit in judgment over matters involving religious sentiments has also lost its strength and is not being forwarded by even the champions of the Ayodhya movement.
This new maturity should inform political and popular responses to the verdict which should be known in the next two days. The verdict may go against one party or the other, as it mostly happens in legal disputes, or may not finally settle the dispute, as it has happened when Ayodhya-related issues have come before the courts. In any case all parties to the dispute, those who are otherwise interested in it and everybody else should think that the nation is above their own interests.

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