The Legal Position
In Asian Age, in an interview to S.S. Negi, former Additional Advocate-General of India (between 1996-1998) and senior Supreme Court advocate K.N. Bhat sees a chance of Hindu factions fighting over the Ram Temple issue rather than a fight between Hindus and Muslims. However, Mr Bhat, who was the counsel for “Bhagwan Shri Ram Virajman (the deity)” and “Asthan Ram Janmabhoomi” whose suit was allowed, concurs with the views expressed by S. Gurumurthy about the legal position:
The suits have been decided generally in accordance with law e.g. Suit No. 3 (Nirmohi Akhara) and Suit No. 4 (Sunni Waqf Board) have been dismissed on the ground of limitation i.e. they were filed beyond the period prescribed by law. Nirmohi’s suit was dismissed on the additional ground of not impleading the necessary party viz., the deity.
The decision on Janmasthan being a deity and that the particular area below the central dome (when it existed) being “by tradition, belief and faith” the birthplace of Lord Ram are based on the sound principles of law and good precedents in the form of decisions by the Privy Council, the Supreme Court of India and many authoritative texts on religion.
However, in the matter of dividing the property in the manner it did, the court has gone beyond strict legal principles of the pleadings and prayer because no one pleaded so, nor prayed for such a relief.
In response to the question whether the high court has failed to enforce the constitutional mandate of adjudicating the case strictly as per the law:
No. The high court has discharged its mandate fully. The direction to divide the land into three portions may appear to be a panchayat, but, in reality, the plaintiffs whose suits have been dismissed cannot get a decree for a share in the property. Accordingly, it is a theoretical declaration of right.
The ASI Report
In the Pioneer, A Surya Prakash goes over some of the objections raised over the judgments and concludes by addressing the charges about the ASI report:
Also being challenged is the report of the Archaeological Survey of India. The opponents of the verdict do not know, or pretend not to know, that the excavations at Ayodhya were supervised by two judges; that all parties were given the right to park their representatives (including archaeologists and lawyers) at the site; that the court directed that the ASI team and the labourers employed at the site should comprise both Hindus and Muslims and it was so.
Ignorance of law is no defence. But going by the ill-informed discourse that is on after the Ayodhya verdict, it appears as if ignorance is the best excuse to pontificate on the judgement and to pour scorn on the law and those who interpret it.
The 1992 demolition
The test of the soundness of the court's verdict is this: assuming the correctness of the High Court's findings that the area beneath the central dome of the mosque was the birthplace of Lord Ram or that the Masjid was built over the ruins of a temple in 1528, if the Masjid had not been demolished and had remained on the site, would the court have ordered a division and partitioning of the disputed site in the manner it has directed? This could have been done only by the Masjid of 500 years being brought down to create a vacant site — which clearly would have been an impossible direction.
If that is not the case, can the court take advantage of the illegal act of demolition of the Masjid and order a division of the disputed site in the manner it has done?
The majority verdict of the High Court is well intentioned, meant to be a measure of compromise and national reconciliation. If it is accepted in that spirit by the Muslim community, it will resolve a burning communal problem of our nation. This is the consummation to be wished for. If this does not happen and the court's verdict has to be accepted, it will leave simmering resentment in the Muslim community, for it will see that as the court's condonation and legitimisation of a place of worship having been vandalised.
The Muslim reaction
Neerja Chowdhury in the New Indian Express:
...Their anger is directed at the Congress — its leaders ‘welcomed’ the judgment as opposed to ‘accepting’ it — and this is the subtext of the signal that has gone to the community.
They argue that when the idols were placed in the mosque for the first time on the night of December 22 1949, it was under a Congress government in power. When the locks were opened at the disputed structure, at the instance of a Faizabad district judge on February 1 1986, then too the Congress was in power, and the move was seen as a balancing attempt to curry favour with the Hindus who had been annoyed by the Shah Bano judgment and the Muslim Women’s Bill. The shilanyas for the temple took place in November 1989, on the eve of the general elections, and it gave the movement for a temple an impetus, when Rajiv Gandhi was in power. When the demolition took place on December 1992, the government of P V Narasimha Rao was in the saddle and he did nothing to stop the destruction of the structure.
And now, on September 30 came the judgment which dismissed the title claimed by the Sunni Waqf Board on the basis of the widely held belief that the place constituted the birthplace of Ram, even though the whole world had seen the mosque being demolished.