The first appeals were kept boiling in the apex court for a decade. Mentions were made before one Chief Justice after another.
Hand it to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. He is “Man of the Match” and now a man of history too. He was aware it would be a miracle if he could conclude the hearings for a verdict. He has performed a higher miracle in accomplishing a unanimous one. Just to capture the potency of the sensitivity of the issue, the 1,045 page verdict, including the Addendum, is authored by all five judges ‘anonymously’ - a never before occurrence.
The first appeals were kept boiling in the apex court for a decade. Mentions were made before one Chief Justice after another. None had the gumption, gall and confidence to list it. But Gogoi was made of sterner stuff. And from the pulpit, he carried authority. The judges met dissent, even personal barbs, but ignored them for a higher cause.
In a moment of ‘utter judicial madness’, as a twitter handle put it, Ranjan Gogoi chose to bite the bullet. After heated arguments were rudely brought to an end with Rajeev Dhavan tearing up a map, just 3 days were given to all sides to furnish their submissions in relation to ‘moulding the reliefs’. It is from these suggestions, and also from the contemporaneous mediation process led by Justice Ibrahim Khalifullah, the gentleman judge from Tamil Nadu, that the Supreme Court picked up its cues in the grant of reliefs. Truth to tell, reference to mediation has turned out to be a masterstroke, in appropriating the generosity of the Muslims, with an imprimatur from the Supreme Court.
Lord Ram may (as the Hindus believe) or may not (as the Addendum dissent suggests) have been born in Ayodhya. The top court said ‘continued worship across centuries was no myth but real’. Equally, the Supreme Court did not dismiss the ‘namaz practices of Muslims in the Babri Masjid’. The idol Ram accepted as juristic person (not Ram Janmabhoomi itself, as urged) was favoured with ‘a decree of entire 2.77 acres of disputed land’. And the Sunni Waqf Board’s worship claims allied with illegal demolition of Babri Masjid got them 5 acres of alternate land in a prominent place in Ayodhya.
Coming to the ‘moulding of reliefs’, the Supreme Court embraced that panacea for all ills - provision in Art.142 of the Constitution which our forefathers had thoughtfully provided for, ‘to do complete justice’. Supreme Court religiously tucked into it, based on the ‘continued and unimpeded possession and worship of believers in Ram’s birth place’, to vote on the entire 2.77 acres. However, they ruled that demolition of Babri Masjid being illegal, SWB would be entitled for reparation in ‘5 acres of alternate land’ to be given by Central/State governments, for construction of a mosque.
Modi, it appears, is destiny’s child, for BJP, to fulfil their three core manifesto promises. Art.370 through Parliament, now, building of a grand Ram temple, via judicial benevolence and a Uniform Civil Code, in part achieved through the Triple Talaq legislation. What next? A party that was branded as communal, came down to 2 MPs in 1984, could not last 13 days and 13 months, in government, in their early forays, today stands on the cusp of turning real each of the 3 impossible dreams. The opposition parties must be gasping for breath and Shiv Sena may have chosen an inopportune moment to test an ally.
Muslims may feel peeved that Art.142 was invoked to render ‘complete justice’ when it may be injustice to them, as the Supreme Court had conceded proof of their ‘vested right’ in worship and illegality in demolition of Bari Masjid. Therein lies the seeds of dissent and a possible review, but the score line being 5-0, it may turn out to be an exercise in futility. If peace and harmony reign, in the wake of this “wise and sagacious compromise like verdict”, as a retired judge said, we may yet have the closure we deserve.
(The writer is a practising advocate in Madras HC)