The Supreme Court on September 27, 2018 declined to refer the 1994 Ismail Farooqui judgment that mosques are not integral to Islam to a larger constitution bench.
The judgement was delivered by a three-judge bench with 2: 1 majority. The majority judgement was written by Justice Ashok Bhushan on behalf of himself and Chief Justice Deepak Misra. The third judge, Justice Abdul Nazeer presented a dissenting judgment.
The decision to not refer the issue of reconsideration of the 1994 observations on the Ayodhya-Ram Janmabhoomi land dispute case to a five-judge constitution bench paves the way for the apex court to hear the main Ayodhya land dispute.
The Judgment: Key Highlights
• In the majority verdict, the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that the present case on Ayodhya land dispute shall be decided on its own facts and the Ismail Farooqui judgment would have no impact on it.
• Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the majority judgement on behalf of himself and the CJI, said that the court has to find out the context in which the five-judge had delivered the 1994 judgement.
• He said that the statement in Faruqui case was in the limited context of immunity claimed by the petitioners for the mosque from acquisition and added that it need not be read broadly to mean mosque can never be essential to practise of Islam.
• Justice S Abdul Nazeer disagreed with the two judges and said whether mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering belief of religion and it requires detailed consideration.
• He referred to the recent Supreme Court order on female genital mutilation and said that the present matter should be heard by a larger bench.
• The civil suit on the land dispute will now be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29 as Justice Misra is scheduled to retire as the CJI on October 2.
The issue whether mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when the three-judge SC bench headed by CJI Misra was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court's 2010 verdict by which the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area was to be divided in three parts.
The Allahabad high court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered that the 2.77 acres of land be divided equally among the three concerned parties -the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha.
In 1994, the Supreme Court had ruled that namaz or prayers could be offered anywhere and that a mosque was not necessary.
This cleared the way for the government to acquire the land where the 16th century Babri mosque was demolished by large crowd of Hindu Kar Sevaks. The site is considered by some of Hindus to be Ram Janmabhoomi, or the birthplace of Lord Ram and so they feel that a Ram temple should be built at the site.
According to various muslim organisations, the decades-old verdict played a big role in the disputed land in Ayodhya being divided in 2010 into three parts by the Allahabad High Court.
The organisations argue that the “sweeping” observation of the apex court in the 1994 verdict needed to be reconsidered by a five-judge bench as “it had and will have a bearing” on the Babri Masjid-Ram Temple land dispute case.
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