The verdict provides a template for the future on how to use the present to set right the wrongs of the past — perceived or real
The five-member Constitution bench on the Ayodhya case headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has virtually made the impossible possible by balancing what appeared to be irreconcilable interests intertwined by matters of faith, evidence, history, religion and politics.
The verdict considers all viewpoints and accommodates some, without accepting any party’s claim in totto, but at the same time meeting the most important demands of all. Yet, there is no single victor as the court has refused to give the most crucial title ownership to any of the parties and vesting the ownership with the central government.
Importantly, the verdict provides a template for the future, as hoped in these columns, on how to use the present to set right the wrongs of the past — perceived or real. That there is only one unanimous judgment shows the conviction of the court in arriving at its conclusions and provides greater credibility to the decision.
The bench has kept consistency with its view expressed in the course of the hearing of the case, which entailed examination of 11,500 records, spread over 38,147 pages, that the Ayodhya land dispute was not only about property, it was also about “mind, heart and healing”. That clearly established the additional dimensions of the issue, which were not considered adequately by various courts that heard the matter earlier.
In this respect, Justice Gogoi’s bench had also made a departure from the stand of former Chief Justice Dipak Misra that it was purely a title dispute that required to be decided only on the basis of the evidence presented before the court. The court has looked beyond 1528, the year in which Babri Masjid was built, to consider matters of crucial relevance in arriving at a decision.
In the absence of complete documentation, the available documents and evidences may not provide the complete picture, which has to be deduced with the help of other factors, including assumptions. That is what the court has successfully done. Gaps in documentation have been filled with inputs from faith.
The Sunni Waqf Board lost their argument the day the Supreme Court refused to reopen the settled issue that mosque was not integral to worshipping in Islamic faith. This removed a major hurdle in the quest for a solution and somewhat diluted the sentimental value of Babri Masjid for devout Muslims.
For Hindus, Ram Lalla and Ram’s birthplace are matters of deep faith and, therefore, not open to question, which the Supreme Court has upheld. Muslims’ sentimental attachment to the structure can at best be post-Babri Masjid, but the Hindu faith is much older. So, in a way, it is faith taking precedence over sentiment, the latter mostly a product of political approach.
As stated in these columns before, a lot of credit for facilitating the Supreme Court in reaching the best possible solution to the vexed issue must go to the court-appointed mediation panel, which had, however, faced flak right from its inception. It was the mediation process that threw up the suggestion of an alternative site for the construction of the mosque, which the Constitution bench has incorporated in its final verdict.
The court has actually gone beyond its brief by proposing the construction of the Ram mandir under a trust to be formed by the central government. The court, in fact, has said it is using its special powers to do this, although there was no such prayer in the pleas of the parties. In doing this, the court has clearly shown what it meant by heart, mind and healing in the course of the hearing.
By resolving the title ownership, at the same time without prejudice to the claims of the parties to perform worship and pursue their respective faith, the court has come up with the best possible solution. The court’s sagacity was also in evidence when it took care to address the political aspects of the settlement. In fact, it was an unprecedented step by the Chief Justice when the summoned the top officials of the Uttar Pradesh government to review the security situation so that any possibility of matters getting out of control is eliminated.
Incidentally, this had given clues to at least some of the observers on the nature of the verdict that was about to be delivered.
(K Raveendran is a senior journalist. Views are personal.)Get access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.