NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday concluded the hearing of the Babri Mosque case, which is built on land claimed by Muslims and Hindus.
The case is to settle a land title dispute between Muslims and Hindus over plans to build a temple on the site. A five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, is expected to issue a verdict next month.
It is more than 25 years since a Hindu mob demolished the 16th-century mosque, located in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Nationalists claim Mughal emperor Babur demolished an ancient temple in order to construct a mosque. Once the mosque was pulled down, rioting and violence broke out across India and thousands were killed.
The primary agitator behind the riots, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), emerged from the bloodshed with its reputation enhanced and proceeded to expand its political footprint across the country.
“The matter is to be decided on three grounds. One count is the legal battle, that is, whose land is this,” Delhi-based political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News. “The second ground is the matter of faith from the Hindu side. Regardless of the legality of the land, it is a matter of faith, which cannot be proven in a court of law and belief cannot be disputed. The third is a matter of tradition. Now the court has to decide which side of the argument it is going to rest its matter on.”
The case was also a test for the Indian judiciary, he said, adding: “Besides, the BJP will exploit the situation either way. If the verdict goes in their favor they will claim victory, if not then they will exploit the Hindu sentiment for a new mobilization.”
In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the site of the razed mosque would be divided between Hindus and Muslims, with two-thirds being allocated to Hindus, who would be allowed to keep a makeshift temple they had constructed there. Both sides, however, challenged the order and the ruling was suspended.
In March this year, Gogoi set up a three-member mediation panel to resolve the contentious issue. The panel failed in its mission to reconcile the warring parties.
In August, he decided to hold daily hearings of the case and, on Monday, wound up all the hearings from 14 petitioners.
Gogoi retires from his post next month and has expedited the process so he can deliver the verdict before he steps down.
The Hindu petitioners pleaded on the grounds of faith. They argued that the dispute concerned the faith of the majority community and that the matter could not be treated as a normal civil dispute. Muslim petitioners said they were the original titleholders of the land and therefore it belonged to them.