Saturday, October 02, 2010

Allahabad Verdict - Comments


Summary of Issues and Judgement
The court has weighed on a number of issues in five different CIVIL suits filed between 1949 and 1971. Of these, Suit-4 was filed by the Sunni Waqf Board. This is the only suit in which Muslims are the plaintiffs. In the rest of the suits, the Hindu parties are the plaintiffs.
The suits have nothing to do with the Masjid demolition - that is a criminal suit. Therefore the judgement has nothing to do with Sangh Parivar's acts.
The judgements were delivered by justices S.U.Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and Dharam Veer Sharma. Justice Khan's verdict is sympathetic to the Muslims; while the majority opinion (Agarwal and Sharma) is sympathetic to the Hindus.
The judgements have covered a lot of issues - but most notably the majority opinion says:
- that a temple may have existed in the site in which Babar or his commander built the mosque.
- that the mosque is not built by Sharia and therefore is not legitimate
- that Ram Janma Bhoomi as beleived by Hindus, is at the site in dispute

and then the judges proceeded to partition the site between the Hindus parties and the Muslim parties in detail.
Please note that the judges expressed the above opinions because the Suits asked for opinions on these, not because they wanted to. The judges did skip a couple of issues as irrelevant.
Contrary to media reports, the judges did not say explicitly that "Ram was born at the site". Justice Agarwal says:
"It is held that the place of birth, as believed and worshipped by Hindus, is the area covered under the central dome of the three-domed structure.."
Justice Sharma simply decided the issue in favor for the plaintiffs (Hindus).

My opinion
1. I think the court overstepped its authority when it partitioned the site. If two parties are fighting for a title, the court cannot just go in and partition the site of dispute - that is not what courts are for. That is an administrative or arbitration settlement. The court,if it could not establish title, should have just dismissed the suits and allowed it to be settled through arbitration.
This issue (if the court overstepped) will probably be decided by the Supreme Court.
Reading the judgements, it seems that the judges felt the need to defuse the situation, irrespective of their authority. But this sets up a bad model.
We repeatedly see in this case (from 1949) that people have taken the wrong approach in this dispute because of fear of public (read majority) opinion. After all one of the core reasons for the suits is that the sneaky installation of the deities was not reversed for fear of popular backlash.

2. From a purely moral perspective, the judges' decision does not make sense (even if they had the authority). For anyone reviewing the issue, it is obvious that the masjid had been target of Hindu mobilisation and attacks for some time. This was true in 1934 when it was damaged. This was also true in 1949 when the deities were sneaked in.
Now, the motives of the people who brought the deities is clear - they had a wedge issue that administrators will be afraid to deal with. Getting the deities in such a manner was a work of incitement.
60 years later, the court has rewarded the inciters.
Now, the court has argued that this is a matter of faith. But it is also clear that this was an act of minority-baiting. The court addressed the faith part, but not the "protection of weak" part. If the majority's faith is against a weaker party, it is the court's role to protect the weak - not emphasize the faith.
Even otherwise, this "faith" is more manufactured. We all know that.

3. I also think the court has set a bad precedent based on faith. Note this - the verdict basically says Muslims have no right to the mosque because Hindus believe it is Ram Janma Bhoomi and the Muslims have no title. They do not directly say that, but that is the implication of their findings on the issues.
That is a very dangerous precedent. It leaves religious parties to create many more wedge issues. There are plenty of temples and mosques out there without titles. They are all now vulnerable.

The court summaries are publicly available - reading them, I was surprised by the judges' complete denial of issues to the Muslim parties. Almost every issue is decided against the Muslim parties. I feel sorry for them.

4 comments:

Vinay said...

Ram,
Nice post on the overview of the verdict. Got a question though...

Not that I completely read and understand the verdict, but, is the court doing something really uncalled for? What I mean is that there might not have been any TItle Document for the disputed land and in the absence of such the court might have held all 3 parties involved as Joint Owner, as all three were in some portion of the land during the course of time immemorial, but to avoid any future conflicts b/w the parties they would have deemed fit to divide it in an amicable manner. Or do you think this should only be done through *arbitration*?

Ramiah Ariya said...

Cases with no title document come up all the time in courts. The courts do not step in and try to administer a partition through decree in every case.
In this case, I do admit that the court ASKED the parties to settle through arbitration. Nobody made a move. It was after this that the court delivered a verdict.
But they should have controlled the urge to settle it by decree. That is not the role of the court, and that was not what was ASKED of them. I am pretty sure the SC will overturn this.

Sridhar said...

I disagree, finally got some time to think and comment about it here.

Geek said...

"That is a very dangerous precedent. It leaves religious parties to create many more wedge issues. There are plenty of temples and mosques out there without titles. They are all now vulnerable."

Sorry to say you are factually wrong on this one. Places of Worship Act, 1991, effectively prevents any such issues from arising in future.