NEW DELHI: Adjudication of the politically sensitive Ayodhya land dispute case will be delayed as the Supreme Court on Friday said it will first decide whether the apex court’s 1994 decision that a “mosque is not an essential part of Islam” needs to be re-examined by a Constitution bench.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said it would examine whether a five-judge bench was required to go into the question of whether a mosque was integral to Islam, but they turned down the demand that the 70-year-old legal battle between Hindu and Muslim communities over ownership of the nearly 3 acres of Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi disputed land be also referred to a larger bench.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing one of the original plaintiffs, M Siddiq, now replaced by his legal heir after his death, said the entire case should be referred to a Constitution bench.
“Why should only one part and not the entire case be referred to a Constitution bench,” he asked. Lawyers appearing for those who have claimed the Ayodhya site for construction of a Ram temple objected to reopening of the ‘Ismail Faruqui case’ of 1994 and said there was no need to refer any issue to a larger bench.
The present three-judge bench should proceed with the Ayodhya dispute case, they contended. However, the bench said it was necessary to examine the plea raised by the Muslim community contending mosque as a place of worship was a fundamental feature of Islam.
“First, we must put the controversy (over whether mosque is essential to Islam) to an end,” said the bench, which had earlier referred to the decades-old legal battle as a mere “land dispute.”
The SC had said in its ‘Ismail Faruqui case’ of 1994, “A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in the open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India.”
Dhavan, in his two-hour-long argument, contended that the Faruqui case was wrongly decided by the apex court and the verdict contradicted an earlier SC judgment. “A mosque is forever. It does not lose its significance and it remains a place of worship even if it is demolished,” Dhavan said.