The decades-old Ayodhya dispute is unlikely to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court any time soon, as an apex court bench observed on Monday that it could take 10 years for the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case records to be streamlined.
It has been almost five years since the three contesting parties in the matter challenged an Allahabad high court verdict dividing into equal parts between them the 2.77-acre disputed site where the 16th century mosque stood before it was torn down by hardline Hindu activists in 1992.
But the top court pointed out that the records in the case were in several languages — Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi — and would have to be translated into English before appeals could be taken up.
“The record is massive and the documents in the case are of varied kind. Streamlining of the records would not take less than 10 years,” a bench headed by Justice TS Thakur said.
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The court asked the lawyers to sit with the SC registry to streamline the papers so the casebooks are ready whenever the matter is heard and directed its registry to provide copies of CDs, containing digitised records of the dispute, to the parties involved.
“It may be a long road to final adjudication. But you must proceed in a methodical manner,” the court told the counsel, saying this would help dispose of the matter expeditiously.
The Supreme Court also allowed the repair and replacement of some facilities at the makeshift Ram temple, days after it asked the central and Uttar Pradesh governments to make available whatever amenities possible to pilgrims going to the holy city to offer prayers at the disputed site.
“We direct that the authorised person/commissioner Faizabad is permitted to replace the old and worn out tarpaulin sheet, jute matting, bamboo, polythene sheet and ropes over the makeshift structure by new ones of the same size and quality and exactly in the same manner as they were previously placed,” the court said on Monday.
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The SC had four years ago stayed the 2010 Allahabad high court verdict that said the land on which the mosque stood be divided into three parts — one for Ram Lalla, represented by the Hindu Mahasabha for the construction of a temple, another for the Sunni Waqf Board and the third for Hindu group Nirmohi Akhara.
The top court had ordered status quo at the 2.77-acre site, meaning prayers at the makeshift temple could go on, but it restrained any kind of religious activity on the adjacent 67-acre land, which had been taken over by the Centre.
Hours after Monday’s decision, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi urged the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to appeal against the Supreme Court order.
Many Hindus believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram and a giant temple dedicated to him should be built there, but Muslims want to build a mosque at the site.
“AIMPLB must appeal against or implead itself in this particular case,” Owaisi tweeted.
The demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992, sparked riots that spilled into the following year and have been blamed for about 2,000 deaths.