New Delhi: All Muslim parties in the Ayodhya title dispute case except one – the Sunni Waqf Board – have said in a statement to the Supreme Court that they do not support the Board’s proposed settlement offer. They have also said that the mediation committee’s attempts were “not representative”.
“It is difficult to accept that any mediation could have been done under the circumstances especially when the main Hindu parties had openly stated that they were not open to any settlement and all the other Muslim Appellants made it clear, but, they would not do so (sic),” the statement says.
The statement was filed in the court by the advocates-on-record for the other Muslim litigants – Ejaz Maqbool, Shakil Ahmed Syed, M.R. Shamshad, Irshad Ahmad and Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi. Shahid Rizvi, advocate-on-record for the Sunni Waqf Board, was not a party to the statement.
The parties have also questioned the media reports on the settlement offer, saying that “the leak to the press may have been inspired by either Mediation Committee directly or those who participated in the said mediation proceedings or participants. (It needs emphasis that such a leak was in total violation of the orders of the Supreme court that had directed that such proceedings should remain confidential.)”
On Wednesday (October 16), the last day of back-to-back hearings in the Supreme Court, The Wire reported that the primary Muslim litigant in the title dispute case informed the bench that it is willing to drop its appeals in the matter provided the Centre is willing to guarantee that all other places of worship in India will be protected from similar encroachment.
The other Muslims litigants have now said that this proposal is unacceptable to them. “…we must make it absolutely clear that we the appellants before Supreme Court do not accept the proposal made which has been leaked out to the Press, nor the procedure by which the mediation has taken place nor the manner in which a withdrawal of the claim has been suggested as a compromise,” their statement to the Supreme Court says.
The Waqf Board’s proposal was presented to the court via the three-member mediation panel. Some but not all Hindu parties have signed the settlement, sources told The Wire. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad-backed Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas has not accepted the terms of the settlement.
Besides firm safeguards for all other mosques in India, the settlement envisages the renovation of 22 existing mosques in Ayodhya, permission to build another mosque in lieu of the Babri masjid at some other location, and the possibility of worship in a number of historic mosques which are currently under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India.
In virtually day-to-day hearings over the past few weeks, the bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had heard arguments from the two Hindu litigants in the case – the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, controlled by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a front of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Nirmohi Akhara – as well as the Sunni Waqf Board.
Gogoi retires in the middle of November and the bench is expected to deliver its judgment in the landmark case by then.
Headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice (retd) F.M.I. Khalifullah and comprising the respected advocate Sriram Panchu and the Art of Living founder Venkatratnam Ravishankar Ramanayakanpet (also known as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), the mediation panel had earlier informed the court that an out-of-court-settlement could not be reached between the three parties to the dispute.
The Allahabad high court, in its judgment to the title suit dispute in 2010, had found some merit in the claims of each of the three parties and divided the 2.77 acres of land where the mosque stood equally between the three of them. The Supreme Court was hearing appeals to this verdict.
On December 6, 1992, senior BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others were present in Ayodhya when a large mob of political activists who had been mobilised for the purpose climbed atop the mosque and began demolishing it. Within hours, it was reduced to rubble.
The criminal case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation against Advani and others has been languishing for years. Despite the apex court saying in 2018 that the trial be expedited, no verdict is yet in sight.