Mumbai: Forty eminent academics, and rights activists have filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ayodhya dispute appeals passed in November. In the petition, raising concerns over the impact the verdict could have on the “social fabric” of the country, the petitioners have sought a relook into the November 9 verdict.
The verdict, unanimously passed by the constitutional bench judgment of the apex court on November 9, had stated that the Hindu parties will be given the disputed land where the Babri Masjid once stood. The Sunni Waqf Board, the biggest Muslim litigant in the case will be given five acres at a separate “prominent” location in Ayodhya, the judgment had stated.
In the review petition, the petitioners have raised concerns over the judgment’s tenor and language. “Despite having reiterated that the case was to be decided purely as a property suit between the parties, the Court framed the dispute from the very first paragraph of its judgment to be one between the two religious communities,” the petition points out.
The petitioners include Prabhat Patnaik, Aakar Patel, Irfan Habib, Harsh Mander, Farah Naqvi, Nandini Sundar, Shabnam Hashmi, John Dayal and Jayati Ghosh among others and the review petition has been filed through senior advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The petitioners were not a part of the original land dispute suit that was adjudicated early last month but have argued that since the scope of the earlier petition has been expanded from a mere title dispute to that of the “faith”, the petitioners stand a chance to intervene at this stage.
“The Judgment’s tenor, language and operative orders have expanded the scope of the special leave petition from a Title Dispute to a battle about the “faith” of the Hindus and the Muslims. Since it is a matter now between communities, the Petitioners who belong to diverse faiths within the Country are aggrieved by the decision which has a direct impact on the syncretic culture of the country and its secular fabric envisaged in the Constitution,” the petitioners state.
In the review petition, the scholars have pointed to the “different standards of proof” applied to both parties and has called the constitutional bench’s verdict as “erroneous”. “It held that ‘the Muslims’ had failed to prove that they had exclusive possession of the inner courtyard, however, it was enough in the case for ‘the Hindus’ to show that they believed that the Ram Janamsthan lay under the central dome of the mosque,” the petition points out.
Similarly, the petition has also focused on the grave inconsistency in the court’s claim that there was no evidence of Muslim prayer in the inner structure between 1528 and 1857, while accepting that the mosque existed for over 450 years.
Raising their concern over the court’s decision to offer the control of the whole land to the government, the petition says: “The court was legally mistaken for offering the control of the whole land to the government. While the Constitution of India does give the state the responsibility of ensuring equity, transparency, and justice in religious institutions, its secular character does not support the state to facilitate or construct religious places of worship. This is precisely the consequence of the Court’s order.”
In the November 9 verdict, the petitioners say the court has overridden the faith of one community to favour the faith of another. “The belief of the Hindus that Ram was born in Ayodhya is not without doubt (as has been expressed by eminent historians such as Professor Romila Thapar and Professor Irfan Habib). The existence of the Babri Masjid is a fact that has been historically documented, whereas the existence of the Hindu temple on which this mosque was built is merely a belief of the Hindus, one that has not been corroborated by any of the evidence adduced by the Hindu parties,” the petition claims.
It further claims that by relying on the faith of the belief of the existence of a temple, over the evidence of the existence of the mosque, this decision has been in violation of constitutional principles of equality and freedom of religion.