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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Idol worship in part of site doesn’t prove title, SC told

As the senior advocate resumed his arguments, justice Nazeer asked him if he disputed the shebait rights. When Dhavan replied in the negative, justice Bhushan posed another query.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2019 08:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
To worship the idols in the outer courtyard did not mean that Hindus had the title to the place.
To worship the idols in the outer courtyard did not mean that Hindus had the title to the place. (HT image)
         

The Sunni Waqf Board told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that idols of Hindu deities were worshipped in the outer courtyard of the disputed site before they were installed in the inner courtyard under the central dome of the Babri Masjid.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan made the submission before a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi while he advanced his arguments on the Shebait rights, or management rights, claimed by the Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination. Dhavan had on Tuesday conceded the Akhara’s Shebait rights. Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer are the other judges on the bench.

As the senior advocate resumed his arguments, justice Nazeer asked him if he disputed the shebait rights. When Dhavan replied in the negative, justice Bhushan posed another query. “When you are not disputing the shebait rights, are you not accepting that part of the mosque was also {a} temple?” the judge asked, to which Dhavan’s response was: “Yes, maybe, but what part.”

To worship the idols in the outer courtyard did not mean that Hindus had the title to the place. “They were allowed to pray,” he said. At this, justice Chandrachud pointed out that Dhavan’s clients had asserted property rights over the whole area, including the outer courtyard. Conceding shebait rights would mean giving up part of the claim, he told Dhavan.

The senior counsel argued that the Akhara had easement rights (to use a property) only but not the title. “But then such part is taken out of the mosque”, added justice Chandrachud, seeking a response from Dhavan on whether the idol being a juristic person had other rights too. “The idol only had a limited juristic personality,” Dhavan contended.

“Does the fact that they prayed there give them title? It’s a risky situation, but that’s the Indian situation”, Dhavan said. Justice Nazeer asked him if the Indian situation allowed places of worship belonging to different religions to exist side by side, unlike the foreign position under Islamic law. Or was it Sufi influence, he said, asking if a mosque and another place of worship could co-exist. Dhavan said it was possible in Sufi places of worship.

Before the proceedings began, the counsel brought to the court’s notice an attack on Iqbal Ansari, son of Hashim Ansari, who was one of the first litigants in the case. Dhavan rued that Ansari had been attacked although he had been given police protection. “What kind of protection is this?” asks Dhavan.The court then said: “We will see what we can do.”

Hindu groups say that the disputed site in Ayodhya marks the birthplace of the warrior-god Ram and that a mosque, Babri Masjid, had been built there during Mughal rule on the ruins of a temple. In December 1992, Hindu activists campaigning for the construction of a temple on the site razed the mosque.

The Supreme Court is hearing appeals against a 2010 Allahabad high court judgment that called for the disputed site in Ayodhya to be divided equally between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara, and Ram Lalla Virajman, an organisation that represents the infant deity Ram.