JUH chief MA Madani said purpose of the review petition was to not disrupt country’s communal harmony and added that if apex court upheld its November 9 judgment, the body will abide by it.
Complete justice can be done in the Ayodhya case only by ordering the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to rebuild the Babri Masjid, argued a review petition filed on Monday by a prominent Muslim body — the first challenge to the apex court’s verdict in November that paved the way for a Ram temple to come at the site.
The petition, filed by the general secretary of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind (JUH), Maulana Syed Ashhad Rashidi,claimed that though the top court acknowledged several illegalities committed by the Hindu parties, particularly damaging the domes of the Babri Masjid in 1934, desecrating the 16th-century mosque in 1949, and finally demolishing it in 1992, it condoned those illegal acts by awarding the disputed site to the very party that based its claims on those illegal acts.
“The Supreme Court committed grave error by granting relief to a party who had not approached the Court with clean hands and indulged in repeatedly flouting the orders of the Supreme Court,” argued the petition.
Rashidi’s plea runs into 217 pages and lists out 14 “errors” in the top court’s November 9 judgment — delivered by a five-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, and including the current CJI SA Bobde, and justices Ashok Bhushan, DY Chandrachud and S Abdul Nazeer — that awarded title of the 2.77-acre disputed land to Ram Lalla Virajman, the child deity, and awarded five acres of land at an alternative site for a mosque.
The court also asked the government to set up a trust to oversee construction of the temple and manage the site.
The errors necessitated a review of the order, said the petition by Rashidi, who is a descendant of one of the original litigants, M Siddiq.
“We filed a review as the verdict is beyond understanding. Justice has not been done,” said JUH chief Maulana Arshad Madani.
He said the purpose of the review petition was to not disrupt the country’s communal harmony and added that if the apex court upheld its November 9 judgment, the body will abide by it.
“The judgment legitimises majoritarianism and mobocracy and strikes at the very secular fabric of our Constitution…,” Madani said.
The review petition opens a fresh chapter in the 136-year-old dispute that is among India’s most communally sensitive, and spotlights divisions among Muslim litigants over filing a review petition. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has already said it will file a review petition, and joined the Ulama in rejecting the offer of alternative land. “We have prepared the review petition and we can do it any day before December 9,” said AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jilani.
But a number of prominent Muslim litigants — including the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board and Iqbal Ansari — have criticised the decision to file a review, saying it is best to end the festering dispute.
“I have always maintained that I will accept the courts’ decision whether it is in favour of mandir or mosque. I am personally against any decision to go for review of the court’s verdict,” said Iqbal Ansari, a Muslim litigant in the case.
The review petition was immediately criticised by Hindu groups, who called it an attempt to stall the construction of the temple.
“The review petition will have no impact on the Ayodhya verdict…this petition will create disharmony between Hindu and Muslims ,” said Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas that spearheaded the Ram temple movement.
The Ayodhya dispute ratcheted up communal tensions on December 6, 1992, when a mob scaled the Babri Masjid and demolished it, triggering a cycle of violence that killed at least 2,000 people across India. Many Hindus believe the site was the birthplace of warrior god Ram, and the 16th-century mosque was built after pulling down a temple dedicated to Ram.
Rashidi’s petition, filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool, argued that the SC judgment was virtually a direction to demolish Babri Masjid because had the mosque not been illegally demolished, the implementation of the present order would have required the destruction of an existing mosque to make space for a proposed temple.
The petition also countered the five-judge SC bench’s finding that the Muslim parties could not establish exclusive possession of the inner courtyard of the Babri Masjid, while the Hindu parties proved exclusive possession of the outer courtyard. This point eventually proved to be among the main grounds for the Supreme Court’s decision to award the site to Hindus.
The petition claimed the inner courtyard was in exclusive possession of Muslims from 1528. From 1528 till 1856, the then princely state of Oudh — where Ayodhya was located — was under Muslim rule and Namaz was being offered continuously at the Babri Masjid. After the annexation of Oudh by the British, the grant originally given by Mughal emperor Babur for meeting the expenses of salary of Khatib (Imam, prayer leader) and Muezzin was continued, it is claimed in the petition.
“Needless to say, that the grant would not have been continued if Namaz was not being continuously offered at the Babri Masjid,” the petition read.
Rashidi claimed Hindus could exercise easementary rights (right to way) over the outer courtyard while Muslims could exercise their exclusive rights of title over the entire property, with exclusive possession of the inner courtyard.
He also clearly stated he was not challenging certain findings of the November 9 judgment, including the findings on limitation and that court cannot correct historical wrongs. The power of the Supreme Court to review its judgment is limited to correcting errors apparent in its judgment or to remedy grave injustice caused due to its judgment.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had welcomed the apex court’s decision, criticised the review petition.
“Before the SC’s November 9 Ayodhya verdict, there was near unanimity among all that they would abide by the top court’s verdict whatever it might be. To go in review now means going back on one’s words,” said BJP leader Ammar Rizvi.
The Congress refused to comment and the Samajwadi Party said it was the right of the petitioner to ask for a review of the judgment.
Review petitions are usually heard in judges’ chambers except in cases involving death penalty or in cases where the court allows hearing in open court . The petition is heard by the same bench of judges who delivered the original judgment. If any of the judges on that bench is unavailable, then a new judge is nominated to the bench by the CJI.