The Congress on Tuesday said the Ayodhya verdict "in no way condones" the "shameful and criminal" demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 and welcomed efforts to find an amicable resolution to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
Briefing reporters after a meeting of the Congress steering committee, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said the party respected the judicial process on the Ayodhya dispute. The meeting was attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
"The Indian National Congress respects the judicial process with regard to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit. However, we must now await the final decision of the Supreme Court, as and when the appeal is filed. In the meantime, the Congress welcomes efforts by the parties concerned with the litigation to find an amicable and peaceful settlement," Dwivedi said.
"It is important to underline that the verdict in no way condones the demolition of Babri Masjid on Dec 6, 1992 which was a shameful and criminal act, for which perpetrators must be brought to justice. Any distortion of the verdict by communal forces is detrimental to the larger national interest and will cause harm to the nation's mood and desire for peace and harmony," he said.
The Congress' statement on Ayodhya reiterates Chidambaram's statement a few days ago that the court verdict in no way condones the demolition of the mosque.
Dwivedi said the party has decided to hold the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting before Diwali and the party's plenary before Dec 20. He said the AICC session would mark the culmination of the organisational process while the plenary will be linked to the 125th anniversary of the party's formation.
He said a suggestion was made to form a committee to look into the changes needed into the party's constitution.
Gandhi, in her opening remarks, spoke on the Ayodhya judgment and expressed satisfaction that the process of organisational elections had been completed to a large extent. She asked Oscar Fernandes, who heads the party's central election authority, to complete at the earliest the pending work, including election of AICC members.
On Kashmir, Gandhi expressed grief over the loss of lives and welcomed the initiatives taken by the government concerning the state.
Dwivedi said 11 members spoke at the nearly two-hour-long meeting.
Gandhi was re-elected Congress chief last month. According to party norms, the working committee turns into steering committee after a new president is elected. The working committee is expected to be reconstituted after the AICC meeting.
Answering queries, Dwivedi said there was possibility of one or more parties to the Ayodhya dispute moving the apex court but it would be wrong to speculate about its verdict.
Asked about criticism of the Allahabad High Court verdict by some sections saying that the decision was based on faith, Dwivedi said that the party was not making any value judgment. "It is the duty of everyone to respect the court verdict," he said.
Congress leaders said the party will support any move for amicable settlement of the dispute among the contesting parties but not take an initiative in this regard.
Party sources said that leaders at the meeting criticised remarks of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on the verdict.
The steering meeting was also attended by party leaders incharge of states.
Chidambaram, who is not a member of the steering committee, was invited to the meeting.