SC sends plea challenging Ayodhya Act to Bench hearing Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid appeals

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

“List it before that Bench,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi directed.

The Supreme Court on Friday referred to Ayodhya Bench a plea challenging validity of Ayodhya Act of 1993 under which the Centre acquired 67.703 acres of land, including the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid premises and adjacent areas.

“List it before that Bench,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi directed.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, for the Muslim side in the Ayodhya title suit appeals, said the issue raised in the petition has already been decided by a Constitution Bench in 1994 Ismail Faruqui verdict.

“We cannot have a review now, 27 years later,” Mr. Dhawan said.

“We are sending it to that Bench. Let it come there,” Chief Justice Gogoi replied.

The present petition has been filed despite the fact that the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in its 1994 judgment in the Ismail Faruqui case, has already upheld the validity of the Ayodhya Act except sub-section (3) of Section 4 which mandates the abatement of “all pending suits and legal proceedings without providing for an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for resolution of the dispute between the parties”.

The petition filed by several persons, including two Lucknow-based advocates who claim to be devotees of Ram Lalla, has challenged the legislative competence of the Parliament to acquire religious land.

Recently, the Centre has also moved an application to return the superfluous excess land acquired adjacent to the disputed area to its rightful owners after mapping out the exact extent of acreage required to provide easy access and enjoyment of the RJBM area to the ultimate winner of the title dispute appeals pending in the apex court.

The petitioners had claimed that the 1993 Act infringed on the right to religion of Hindus guaranteed and protected under Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution.

The plea has sought the court’s direction restraining the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government from interfering in “puja, darshan and performance of rituals at the places of worship situated within the land admeasuring 67.703 acres acquired under the Act particularly at the land belonging to Shri Ram Janm Bhoomi Nyas, Manas Bhavan, Sankat Mochan Mandir, Ram Janmasthan Temple, Janki Mahal and Katha Mandap”.