Published: Sun, November 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

India's Supreme Court awards disputed religious site to Hindus in landmark ruling

India's Supreme Court awards disputed religious site to Hindus in landmark ruling

Now, in a 40-day marathon daily hearing on the matter, all parties have presented their arguments to a Supreme Court Constitutional Bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices SA Bobde (CJI elect), DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

The current dispute is over the 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid existed until 6 December 1992, when Hindu fanatics led by BJP leaders brought down the 16th-century heritage site.

More than 5,000 paramilitary force members and police have been deployed in the northern town of Ayodhya, where an ancient mosque was razed in 1992 by hardline Hindus who believe the site is the birthplace of Lord Ram, a physical incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The ruling also comes just three months after Mr Modi's government achieved another key B.J.P. goal, when his government stripped the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir of its autonomy in August, increasing central government control over the territory, which Pakistan also claims. In India's largest state, Uttar Pradesh, schools were shut in anticipation of possible unrest.

The Muslims will be allocated five acres of land at a different location where they will be able to erect a mosque, the court said.

Muslim groups say government officials connived with Hindu priests to secretly place an idol of an infant Lord Ram inside the mosque complex in 1949.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani told CNN-News18 that the judgment "is a very balanced verdict".

The verdict in the decades-old dispute is a major victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won reelection in a landslide in May.

While reading out its unanimous judgement in the politically-sensitive case, the bench said that Ram Janmabhoomi is not a "legal personality" but a deity is a jurisdictional person.

All India Ulema Council General Secretary Maulana Mehboob Daryadi said the organisation accepts the Supreme Court's final verdict.

"My appeal to the people of India is that our priority is to ensure the verdict strengthens the values of peace, equality and goodwill of our country", he said.

Modi had promised to build the temple while campaigning for the 2014 election that first saw him win office.

The construction of the Ram Mandir is expected to start in early 2020 in case the verdict is favourable, the RSS source said.

Cases were filed in the court by the Hindu side seeking permission for the right to worship the idol in the premises.

"Evidence in the records show that Hindus were in the possession of the outer court of the disputed land", Chief Justice Gogoi said.

"I appeal to the people of the state and all sections of the society to welcome and respect the verdict whatever the decision may be", he said in a statement.

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