The court’s verdict is not clear but it has built the ground for an amicable settlement of the dispute. However, much would depend on the initiative taken by the contesting litigants as well as the political parties as it would involve an attitude of give-and-take.
As of now none of the four parties to the dispute are happy with the verdict but while conveying their “partial disappointment” they have also described it as a “step forward”. This is the first time that the court has given a ruling on a contentious issue that defied a decision since the days of British rule.
In March 1886, Faizabad District Judge Col J.E.A. Chambier while dismissing a petition filed by Mahant Raghubar Das had ruled, “I found that the masjid built by Emperor Babar stands on the border of the town of Ayodhya. It is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on the land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as that occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance. All that can be done is to maintain the parties in status quo.”
That status quo got disturbed in 1949 when the idols of Lord Ram were placed under the central dome of the disputed structure. Today, the three judges have ruled that the deities would continue to remain under the central dome.
The options before the litigants are limited. First and foremost, the aggrieved party or parties will move the apex court.
The possibility of that happening is high as the Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Hindu Mahasabha have already indicated they would challenge the High Court’s decision. The Sunni Waqf Board will take the final decision at a meeting sometime in October.
The second option is to amicably work out the demarcation of the disputed premises as directed by the court. This could mean co-existence of the mandir and masjid — a theory that has been floated in the past as well. However, this would require some sincere political intervention. According to a theory that has been gaining momentum, the Muslims may show benevolence and hand over the disputed land to the Hindus, provided no claims are made in future, the obvious reference being to the Kashi and Mathura shrines. But that may not happen so soon.
Thus, Thursday’s judgment should not be taken by the people of India in the sense of a victory or defeat by any party or community but they should take it as the victory of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.