Law

Supreme Court Constitution Bench to Deliver Ayodhya Verdict on Saturday

The apex court is likely to pronounce judgement at 10:30 in the morning.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict in the Babri Masjid land dispute case on Saturday.

The court’s registry said on Friday evening that the judgment would be pronounced in the Chief Justice’s court at 10:30 am in the morning.

Also read: Ayodhya Sees Massive Security Beef-Up Before Verdict, 4,000 CAPF Personnel Deployed

A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, had reserved the judgement in the Ayodhya case on October 16 after a marathon hearing of 40 days.

The other judges on the bench are Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.

In 2010, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court partitioned the disputed land three ways, between the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-led litigants who want to build a Ram temple at the site, the Nirmohi Akhara, who also want a temple but insist they should be its custodians, and the Sunni Waqf Board.

All three parties, and others, went to the Supreme Court in appeal the same year but it was only in 2017, when the BJP at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh began raising the Ram temple issue again, that the apex court began to actually consider the matter.

While charges have been framed in the conspiracy case against senior BJP leaders who mobilised lakhs of Hindutva activists to assemble at the site on December 6, 1992 and demolish the mosque, the criminal trial is far from nearing completion.

Appeals for calm

In the run up to Saturday’s verdict, appeals for calm have been made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and politicians cutting across party lines. A number of Muslim and Hindu organisations have also appealed for all sides to respect whatever verdict emerges.

In Ayodhya and at sensitive spots in Uttar Pradesh, a large contingent of security forces have been deployed.

Ayodhya Timeline: Once There Was a Masjid

1528: The Babri Masjid is constructed in Ayodhya by Mir Baqi, upon the instructions of the Mughal emperor Babur.

16th-18th centuries: There is no record or discussion of the mosque having been built over a demolished temple, nor indeed is there any record of claims being made that the site was the birthplace of Rama.

1855: The temple town of Ayodhya witnesses clashes between Sunni Muslims and Bairais over the temple of Hanumangarhi, with the former claiming the temple was built at the site of a demolished mosque. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah intervenes on behalf of the temple and holds the peace.

1859: As a local belief about the Babri Masjid being the birthplace of Rama gathers currency, the British colonial administration erects a fence at the site. While Muslims  use the mosque’s inner court to pray, Hindus are allowed to use the outer court.

1885: Mahant Raghubir Das seeks permission to build a platform or chabutra in the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid. His plea is later rejected by a local court.

March 1934: The dispute comes to life again with the outbreak of rioting between Hindus and Muslims which results in damage to the mosque and the dome, which was subsequently rebuilt by the government.

1938-1947: Shia and Sunni Waqf boards contest each other’s claims to the Babri masjid but a local court eventually rules in favour of the latter.

December 22, 1949: Idols of Lord Ram are planted by Hindu Mahasabha activists  inside the mosque. The mosque is then locked. District magistrate K.K. Nayar refused to remove the idol on the premise that this would lead to large-scale rioting. He later joined the Jan Sangh, the precursor to the BJP, and was also elected as an MP.

December 26, 1949: Nehru sends a telegram to the chief minister of the United Province Govind Ballabh Pant expressing concern over the developments in Ayodhya.

A rear view of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

1950: Hashim Ansari files a petition in the Faizabad court asking for the mosque gates to be opened and for namaz to be allowed. Gopal Singh Visharad and Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das also file suits in the Faizabad court seeking permission to offer prayers to the idols in the so-called asthan janmabhoomi. While the inner courtyard remains locked, prayers are allowed from outside. An interim injunction allows a pujari in but forbids entry to others.

1959: A third suit is filed in the Faizabad court by the Nirmohi Akhara (headed by Mahant Bhaskar Das). The Akhara stakes claim to the disputed ground and claims to be responsible for conducting the puja.

1961: A fourth suit is filed by the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board in the Faizabad court asking for the restoration of the Muslims’ right to pray at the mosque.

1964: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is formed by M. S. Golwalkar and S. S. Apte to safeguard “Hindu interests”.

April 6, 1980: The BJP is founded after the dissolution of the Janata Party.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a public meeting with L.K. Advani. Photo: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe

1981: The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board files a suit for possession of the site.

1984: Hindu groups form a committee to spearhead the construction of a Ram temple as the Ram Janmabhoomi movement gathers momentum. BJP leader L.K. Advani assumes leadership of the movement.

April 1984: In response to a mass conversion in Meenakshipuram in 1981, where around 400-800 Dalit families converted to Islam, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad holds a ‘’dharma sansad’. Under VHP joint general secretary Ashok Singhal’s leadership, a demand was raised to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya. A Shriram-Janaki rath yatra was taken out from Sitamarhi in Bihar to Delhi on September 25, 1984. Six more yatras were taken out in UP.

November 1984: General elections are held for the 9th Lok Sabha in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The BJP wins only two seats out of 541. The party’s openly Hindutva politics and espousal of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement fails to yield dividends.

The VHP built a prototype of the Ram temple and carried it to various parts of India. Seen here with Ashok Singhal. Credit: Reuters

The VHP built a prototype of the Ram temple and carried it to various parts of India. Seen here with Ashok Singhal. Credit: Reuters

April 23, 1985: Supreme Court delivers its verdict in the case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum and upholds the decision of the high court that gave orders for maintenance to Shah Bano under CrPC. The judgment is denounced by conservative Muslim leaders.

February 1, 1986: A district judge directs that the Babri Masjid gates be unlocked and Hindus be allowed to worship there. In protest, Muslims set up the Babri Masjid Action Committee. According to historian Ramachandra Guha, “the judge’s order was widely believed to have been directed from Delhi, from the Prime Minister’s Office, no less. The local administration seemed to know of the judgment beforehand, for the locks were opened within an hour of the verdict.” Television crews from Doordarshan were also present. Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister at the time and the move was part of the ‘divide and rule’ politics of a government that was coming under a cloud because of corruption charges. A few months after appeasing Hindu communalists, he did the same with their Muslim counterparts.

May, 1986: Parliament passes the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, effectively overturning the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case. In a 2001 interview, L.K. Advani said that the Rajiv Gandhi government’s decision to open the doors of the Ram temple and its backtracking over the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case were crucial factors that forced the BJP to get involved in the Ayodhya movement.

Arif Mohammad Khan quit the INC over his differences with Rajiv Gandhi on the Muslim Personal Law Bill. Photo: PTI

1986: L.K. Advani becomes the president of the BJP.

July, 1989: A fresh suit is filed by VHP vice-president and former judge of the Allahabad high court Deoki Nandan Agarwal seeking to become the “sakha” or friend of the deity and its birthplace in the title suits at the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad HC. In July 1996, the high court clubbed all the cases together.

August 14, 1989: Allahabad high court orders maintenance of status quo with respect to the Babri Masjid.

November 9, 1989: Rajiv Gandhi government allows the VHP to perform shilanyas (laying of the foundation stone) for the Ram temple on November 9, 1989, on the disputed land.

1989: In the recently concluded general elections, the BJP emerges as the third-largest party with 89 seats and supports V.P. Singh’s National Front government from outside.

September 25, 1990: BJP President L.K. Advani launches his Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya to gather support for the Ram temple. He is arrested in Samastipur in Bihar by the government of Lalu Prasad Yadav in November, 1990. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal is also arrested.

October 30, 1990: Kar sevaks clash with the police on their way to Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid and at least 20 kar sevaks are killed. Mulayam Singh Yadav was chief minister at the time. Uttar Pradesh was subsequently rocked by a series of communal clashes. After the Rath Yatra, the BJP withdraws its support to the National Front central government led by V. P. Singh, leading to its collapse.

1991: BJP emerges as the second-largest party with 121 seats in the Lok Sabha following the general elections but the Congress under Narasimha Rao forms the government at the Centre.

BJP starts to influence national politics. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani (right) are seen here with socialist stalwarts George Fernandes and Ramakrishna Hegde. Photo: Reuters

1991: BJP forms the government in Uttar Pradesh with Kalyan Singh as the chief minister.

December 6, 1992: A crowd of almost 150,000 people gather to listen to speeches by BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders – including LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi – at the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.  The crowd later storms the mosque and demolishes it in a few hours. The demolition occurred despite assurances from the state government to the Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed.

Hindu militants storm the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, climbing atop the building’s dome as they demolish it to clear the site for a Hindu temple. Photo: Reuters/Sunil Malhotra

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, on the evening of December 6, 1992, kar sevaks started attacking Muslim residents of Ayodhya, ransacking and demolishing their houses. Eighteen Muslims were murdered, almost all their houses and shops were torched and destroyed, including 23 local mosques. Additionally, riots broke out in different parts of the country, including Mumbai, and around 2,000 people were killed.

December 8, 1992: Muslims in Pakistan attack more than 30 Hindu temples and the Pakistani government closes offices and schools for a day to protest the destruction of a mosque in India.

December 16, 1992: The Narasimha Rao government sets up the Liberhan Commission, led by retired high court Judge M.S. Liberhan, to investigate the case.

March 1993: Terrorists orchestrate a series of deadly bomb blasts across Bombay, allegedly to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

1993 Mumbai serial blast. Photo: PTI

April 3, 1993: Parliament passes the ‘Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act’ under which the Centre acquires 67.703 acres of land in and around the Babri Masjid. Ismail Faruqui files a written petition challenging some aspects of the Act.

1993: The Liberhan Commission begins its probe. CBI takes over the criminal case and files a chargesheet against BJP leader L.K. Advani and 19 others and accuses them of conspiring to demolish the mosque.

October 24, 1994: The Supreme Court in the Ismail Faruqui case says that a ‘mosque’ is not integral to Islam owing to the fact that ‘namaz’ can be offered anywhere. The Supreme Court finds UP chief minister Kalyan Singh guilty and the court sentences him to a token imprisonment of one day with a fine of Rs 20,000.

Kalyan Singh. Photo: PTI/Files

1998: The BJP forms a coalition government at the Centre under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

2001: Tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledges again to build a Hindu temple at the site.

May 2001: A special CBI court drops proceedings and conspiracy charges against the key accused including Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray and others.

Murli Manohar Joshi (left), L.K. Advani (centre) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (right) Photo: Reuters

January 2002: PM Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appoints a senior official, Shatrughan Singh, to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.

February 2002: BJP rules out committing itself to the construction of a temple in its election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. VHP confirms deadline of 15 March to begin construction. Hundreds of volunteers converge on site. At least 58 people are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra which is carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, die in riots in Gujarat following the train attack in March. Narendra Modi is chief minister of Gujarat at the time.

The Godhra train fire of 2002. Photo: Reuters

2002: The Allahabad high court directs the Archaeological Survey of India to excavate the Babri Masjid site to determine if a temple lay underneath.

August 2003: The ASI submits a report saying that there is evidence of a 10th century temple beneath the mosque. Its report is refuted by archaeologists and historians.

September 2003: CBI special court rules that seven Hindutva leaders should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque, but no charges are brought against Advani, now deputy prime minister, who was also at the site in 1992.

November 2004: The court rules that the earlier order which exonerated Advani for his role in the destruction of the mosque should be reviewed.

July 2005: Six suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists attack the disputed Ram Janambhoomi complex in Ayodhya. The VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia held the Centre responsible for the “lapse in security” and blamed the UPA government. VHP president Ashok Singhal said that the attack intended to “destroy the excavated proof”.

Policemen stands guard near the wreckage of a Jeep used in an attack on Ayodhya. Photo: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

June 2009: The Liberhan commission investigating the events leading up to the mosque’s demolition submits its report – 17 years after it began its inquiry – to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Justice MS Liberhan submits the one-man Commission report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 30, 2009. Photo: PTI

One of the longest-running commissions in the history of the country, the commission, in its report, found several BJP leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Pramod Mahajan, Uma Bharti and Vijayaraje Scindia, and VHP leaders like Giriraj Kishore and Ashok Singhal and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and former RSS leader K. N. Govindacharya culpable in the demolition of the mosque. The report held that several of the leaders had made provocative speeches at the rally and that the demolition was “neither spontaneous nor unplanned”.

September 2010: Allahabad high court rules that the disputed land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid was shall be divided into three parts. A two-thirds portion is to be shared by two Hindu plaintiffs and one-third will be given to the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board. Plaintiffs representing Lord Ram (i.e. VHP), the Nirmohi Akhara and the Waqf Board were declared joint title-holders of the property.

Rapid Action Force personnel on patrol in Ayodhya on the day the high court pronounced its verdict. Photo: Reuters

May 2011: Supreme Court suspends high court ruling after Hindu and Muslim plaintiffs appeal against the 2010 verdict.

May 2014: BJP’s Narendra Modi leads the NDA coalition to power at the Centre.

Feb 26, 2016: BJP MP Subramanian Swamy files plea in SC seeking construction of a Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site.

Jul 20, 2016: The oldest litigant in the Babri Masjid case Mohammad Hashim Ansari dies at 95 years of age.

March 2017: Supreme Court under Chief Justice J.S. Khehar says fresh attempts must be made by all parties concerned to find a solution to the Ayodhya title dispute which is a “sensitive” and “sentimental matter” and suggests an out-of-court settlement among rival parties.

March 2017: BJP wins the state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Yogi Adityanath, founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, takes oath as chief minister.

Senior BJP leaders Uma Bharti, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. Photo: PTI

April 2017: Supreme Court rules that L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti, in addition to other BJP members and kar sevaks, will face charges of criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Kalyan Singh was excluded from the list because he held the post of the governor of Rajasthan. Several of the original accused, including Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, died during the trial. The court orders that the trial, to be held in Lucknow, be completed in two years.

May 30, 2017: A special CBI court frames charges against BJP stalwarts L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti for being part of the criminal conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid  but granted them bail after they appeared before it.

July 2017: Speeding up preparations for the construction of a Ram temple on the Babri site in Ayodhya, truckloads of stones, to be used in building the temple, start arriving in Ayodhya.

August 2017: The Supreme Court constitutes a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra to hear a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad high court verdict in the Ayodhya land dispute case.

August 8, 2017: The Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh tells the Supreme Court that a mosque could be built in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the disputed site in Ayodhya.

November 24, 2017: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says that only a Ram temple and not any other structure will be built at the disputed Ayodhya site.

November 20, 2017: UP Shia Central Waqf Board tells SC temple can be built in Ayodhya and mosque in Lucknow. On December 1, 2017, thirty-two civil rights activists file plea challenging the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad HC.

February 8, 2018: Supreme Court starts hearing the civil appeals and on March 14, 2018, the Supreme Court rejects all interim pleas, including Swamy’s, seeking to intervene as parties in the case.

July 6, 2018: UP government tells Supreme Court some Muslim groups are trying to delay the hearing by seeking reconsideration of an observation in the 1994 verdict.

September 27, 2018: Supreme Court declines to refer the case to a five-judge constitution bench. Case to be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29.

November 12, 2018: Supreme Court declines early hearing of petitions in the case requested by Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha.

November 24, 2018: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray visits Ayodhya and accuses the Modi government of dragging its feet on the issue.

January 8, 2019: Supreme Court sets up a five-judge constitution Bench to hear the case headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud.

Justice U.U. Lalit. Credit: LiveLaw

January 10, 2019: Justice U.U. Lalit recuses himself after lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Sunni Waqf Board, informed the court that the judge had appeared for former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh in a contempt matter related to Babri Masjid case during his time as a lawyer, prompting Supreme Court to reschedule the hearing for January 29 before a new bench.

January 25, 2019: Supreme Court reconstitutes 5-member Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A. Nazeer to hear the case

March 8, 2019: Supreme Court refers the dispute for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F.M.I. Kallifulla and comprising the advocate Sriram Panchu and Art of Living founder Venkatratnam Ravishankar Ramanayakanpet (also known as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar).

July 15, 2019: The special judge holding the trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case, involving BJP veterans L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi, Uma Bharti and others, moves the Supreme Court seeking six more months to conclude the trial.

August 2, 2019: After the mediation process fails to yield any results, Chief Justice  Gogoi says that hearing of the Ayodhya case will begin on August 6 again and will be held on a day-to-day basis.

October 14, 2019: The Ayodhya district administration imposes Section 144 until December 10 in view of the imminent Supreme Court verdict in the case.

October 16, 2019: In a surprise development on the last day of the hearings, the primary Muslim litigant in the title dispute case informs the Supreme Court that it is willing to drop its appeals in the matter – and its claims to the land on which the historic Babri Masjid stood for centuries before it was demolished by Hindutva activists and leaders in 1992 – provided the Centre is willing to guarantee that all other places of worship in India will be protected from similar encroachment. Other Muslim plaintiffs dissociate themselves from this offer, which in any case was not accepted by the main Hindu plaintiff, i.e. the VHP.

November 5, 2019: UP Police decides to ‘scrutinise’ social media posts for objectionable or inflammatory posts in light to the upcoming judgment.

November 6, 2019: Ahead of the Ayodhya title dispute case verdict, several prominent Muslim organisations appeal to the government and citizens of the country to maintain peace and law and order after the judgement is delivered. BJP asks spokespersons to exercise restraint and RSS appeals for calm.

November 8, 2019: Supreme Court registrar says verdict in the title suit will be delivered at 10:30 am on November 9, 2019.