Ayodhya verdict judgment raises several questions for jurists to answer
Breach of the secular character of the State: Prominent among these is whether the Supreme Court’s direction to the Central government to formulate a scheme and set up a trust to facilitate the construction of a temple on the disputed land would amount to a breach of the secular character of the State.
The nine-judge Bench judgment in the S.R. Bommai case of 1994 in this regard clearly said the State should be divorced from religion.
The Bommai judgment said the concept of State is neither pro-particular religion nor anti-particular religion. It stands aloof, in other words maintains neutrality in matters of religion and provides equal protection to all religions.
No breach of constitutional secularism
The Centre was already empowered under Section 6 of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act,1993 to vest the disputed land in a trust or authority. The validity of the 1993 Act was also upheld by the Supreme Court.
- Several positives for the Muslim plaintiffs
The defenders of the rule of law, minority rights and secularism in general and Muslims in particular need not feel disappointed with this judgment. The several positive findings and observations of the court that must be welcomed and appreciated, which will help us retain our otherwise shaken confidence in the majesty of law.
- Secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and that the Places of Worship Act, 1991, protects and secures fundamental values of the Constitution.
- Second, on the topic of freedom of religion under Article 25, the court categorically made a highly appreciable observation that “we must firmly reject any attempt to lead the court to interpret religious doctrine in an absolute and extreme form and question the faith of worshippers.”
- Third, the court accepted the Sunni Waqf Board’s plea that the place of Lord Ram’s birth is not in itself a juristic person. This will avoid several future religious conflicts. The court said that conferral of such a right will impinge on the rights of people of other faiths.
- Fourth, the court categorically accepted the central argument of the Muslim plaintiffs that the mosque was not constructed after the demolition of a Ram temple.
- The court has also said that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)’s report had not found any evidence of demolition of a temple to construct the mosque.
- It pointed out that the ASI’s findings had an intervening gap of four centuries.
- Fifth, the court also said that as per the ASI report, remnants of a pre-existing structure were not used for the construction of the mosque.
- Sixth, the argument of the Muslim plaintiffs that a title cannot be decided solely on the basis of faith or archaeological findings too has been accepted and this is not a small victory and will be of great use in future disputes.
- Seventh, the Muslim plaintiffs’ argument that title of property cannot be decided on the basis of travelers’ accounts was also accepted and the court rightly said that some portions of these accounts, including one by the 18th-century Austrian missionary, Joseph Tiefenthaler, were based on hearsay.
Scriptural interpretations are susceptible to a multitude of inferences. The court would do well if it does not step into the pulpit of such competing interpretations. But did not this very court interpret Koran on maintenance in the Shah Bano case (1985) and on triple divorce in the Shayara Bano case (2017).