SC declines to refer Ayodhya issue to larger bench

The Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Ayodhya issue would be decided by it purely as a land dispute and the previous observations on the relevance of mosques in Islam would have nothing to do with it.

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, by a majority view of 2:1, declined to refer the matter to a Constitution bench on the re-examination of a 1994 judgement by a five-judge bench.

The court said the case will be heard on the basis of evidence and not on the tenets of religious significance of the mosque in question.

It also noted that Babri Masjid was never asserted as a mosque of any particular significance by the Muslim side and hence, the acquisition proceedings of 1993 stood affirmed. Though the issue at hand was important, it could not be construed as a matter of such national importance that only a Constitution bench should adjudicate it, the court said.

Hearing from October 29

The court fixed the matter for hearing from October 29 and declined to set up a larger bench for reconsideration of its 1994 verdict which held a “mosque is not an essential part of the practice of Islam”.

The court said the earlier observation was made in the limited context of “land acquisition” which was not relevant for deciding the title dispute.

“We again make it clear that questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui’s case were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals,” Justice Ashok Bhushan said, reading out the judgement for himself and the CJI.

Justice Bhushan said all religions have to be respected equally by the state as “all mosques, all churches and temples are significant for the community”.

Justice S A Nazeer, the third judge, dissented with the majority view and said the question whether mosque was essential part of the religion cannot be decided without a "detailed examination of the beliefs, tenets and practice of the faith" and favoured reconsideration of the issue to a larger bench.

He referred to the recent Supreme Court order on female genital mutilation and said the present matter should also be heard by a larger bench.

Justice Nazeer said the questionable observation of 1994 verdict had permeated into the Allahabad High Court's decision in the land dispute case, making a three equal division of the 2.77 acre of land among, the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

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