India court ends hearings on disputed religious site, decision in weeks

Clay Curtis
October 17, 2019

Indian Supreme Court has concluded hearings and reserved judgement in perhaps the world's oldest civil dispute, to decide whether the site of the Babri Masjid located in north Indian city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh province, belongs to Hindus or Muslims, the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) reported on Wednesday.

The bench granted three days to contesting parties to file written notes on "moulding of relief" or narrowing down the issues on which the court is required to adjudicate. "Enough is enough", said the bench, which also comprises justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.

"Hearing in this matter is going to be completed today", he said.

But the efforts were revived in September, and the mediation panel submitted its final report to the top court on October 16 (Wednesday), the last day of hearing.

People familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that the proposal, submitted to the top court by the mediators - retired SC judge justice FMI Kalifulla, senior advocate Sriram Panchu and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - effectively offers a possible road map for the court as it prepares to deliver a verdict in the decades-long dispute.

The CJI made these remarks after a lawyer asked the apex court for more time for arguments.

The Court finished hearing all the arguments in the Ayodhya case one hour before the set deadline.

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A verdict in the case is expected next month. "Sunni Board is one party, and it has no more locus than any other individual Muslim party".

The CJI had earlier hinted that delivering the judgment in the case by November 17 would be hard, saying if that happens then it would be a "miracle".

Dhavan said such documents (maps) can not be relied upon in the matter now as the issue of location of "janmsthan" was discussed by the Allahabad High Court on other documents. That would be a definite admission that Hindus or the temple or the deity was the previous owner if Muslims claim benefit of adverse possession doctrine, he said.

Rajeev Dhavan, the counsel for the Sunni Waqf Board, tore apart a map that purportedly showed that the birthplace of Lord Ram would have been located in the centre of the now-demolished Babri Masjid.

The apex court was hearing the case from August 6 this year, on a day-to-day basis (five days a week) after the mediation process, conducted by a three-member Mediation panel, headed by Justice (Retired) FMI Kalifullah, in the case failed.

In 1885, a Hindu religious body asked a court for permission to construct a temple to honor the Hindu deity Rama inside the premises of the Babri Mosque, said to have been built by Mughal Emperor Babur in 1528.

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