Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — In deciding on the Ayodhya verdict, the Supreme Court used the plenary powers to clear the way for Hindus to construct a temple where till 1992 a grand Mughal era mosque stood — before this was illegally demolished by a VHP-backed mob. It could not be proven before court whether the 16th Century mosque was built after demolishing a Hindu temple.
However, the apex court has said that there is adequate material in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report to conclude that Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land and there was a non-Islamic structure underlying the masjid. Though the conclusions in the judgement are not based only on the ASI report, it became one basis for verdict.
But, a matter of serious discussion among legal circles now is, how and why did the ASI report carry weight and find frequent mention in the judgement. Caravan Daily approached noted Supreme Court lawyer Mehmood Paracha to get his views on this. He said he was having doubts about the competence of the lawyers and Muslim leaders who defended the community in the Babri Masjid title case.
Supreme Court lawyer Mehmood Paracha Speaks to Caravan Daily on Ayodhya Verdict.
Posted by Caravandaily on Wednesday, November 13, 2019
The ASI excavated the site of Babri Masjid on direction from the Allahabad High Court in 2003. The Supreme Court judgement says that counsel representing Muslim parties did not cross-examine the ASI commissioner during arguments in the Allahabad high court though there was a provision for this, he said.
Paracha is member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, one of the Muslim parties in the case.
“For 11 years post the demolition of the mosque, that spot was not kept sanitized. Therefore, there was all the possibility of planting evidence deep down,” Paracha said, adding, “We did not raise any doubt vis-a-vis the findings in the report.”
He said that this was the fault of the lawyers, or the legal team, as also the AIMPLB, and this could be cited as a likely “act of great betrayal and corruption.” The Supreme Court relied heavily on this report and rightly so, he said. “Rather than criticising the Supreme Court, we should also look inward and find out if there were faults on our part.”
Paracha went a step further and accused some sections of the Muslim leadership of being hand-in-glove with the Hindutva brigade like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He however, added that in such an important matter, the court could have taken care of these entities’ “incompetence and connivance” and given a chance for cross-examination and to challenge the ASI report. He felt that the judgement did not appear to be based on the principle of natural justice. “So, the honourable judges have somehow resolved the issue.”
In 1992, a mob of right wing Hindu activists led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and others descended on the city of Ayodhya and demolished the Mughal era Babri Masjid in broad daylight, triggering communal clashes across the country. The razing of the mosque was widely condemned as an open assault on the secular fabric of the country. “The Destruction of mosque was against rule of law,” the court reiterated in its judgement.
He said that court was expected to have ordered restoration of status quo of 1992 because the act of demolition of the mosque was against law. “But, here the violator has been rewarded with a temple.” The judgement calls the demolition of Babri Masjid a criminal act, and it doesn’t establish that Babri Masjid was constructed after demolition of a temple, but at the same time, orders the government to construct a temple at the site. This sounded odd, he said.
“The Babri Masjid verdict is a resolution of a long-term dispute in which the majoritarian narrative prevailed,” he added.