Question of title falls outside religious rubric: SC

Representative image. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court has held that the question of title in a civil dispute fell within the secular domain and outside religious rubric, so the method of worship cannot be the ground to claim ownership of property under our Constitution.

"The adjudication of civil claims over private property must remain within the domain of the secular if the commitment to constitutional values is to be upheld," a five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

The top court, which decided the title in the long-pending Ayodhya dispute in the favour of deity, 'Ram Lalla Virajman', rejected a contention by 'Ram Janmabhoomi sthan' (place where Lord Ram was born) to accord it a status of juristic person to assert its claim within three domes of Babri Mosque. 

The 'Ram Janmabhoomi sthan' was one of the plaintiff in Suit no 5 filed by 'Ram Lalla Virajman' through next friend Deoki Nandan Agrawal.

It had claimed any area of religious significance is a 'Swayambhu' deity and deserves to be recognised as a juristic personality.

The devotees‘ worshipped not only the idols of Lord Ram but the very land itself.

The court, however, did not agree to the contention, saying the land does not contain any material manifestation of the resident deity Lord Ram. 

"Absent the faith and belief of the devotees, the land holds no distinguishing features that could be recognised by this court as evidence of a manifestation of God at the disputed site," the court said.

"In a country like ours where contesting claims over property by religious communities are inevitable, our courts cannot reduce questions of title, which fall firmly within the secular domain and outside the rubric of religion, to a question of which community‘s faith is stronger," the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said.

The court said over four decades ago, the Constitution was amended and a specific reference to its secular fabric was incorporated in the Preamble. 

"The Constitution always respected and accepted: the equality of all faiths. Secularism cannot be a  writ lost in the sands of time by being oblivious to the exercise of religious freedom by everyone..."

"(To say) offering worship unique to one religion should result in the conferral of an absolute title to parties from one religion over parties from another religion in an 

adjudication over civil property claims cannot be sustained under our Constitution," the bench said.

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