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Babri panel fires contempt salvo

Lucknow, Feb. 22: The All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee today said it would sue Ashok Singhal for contempt of court for claiming that a laser beam survey had established the existence of a temple on the disputed Ayodhya site.

“The VHP leaders are trying to misinform the people and committing contempt of court by selectively leaking a document,” committee spokesman Zafarayab Jilani said.

Jilani said all the 26 parties in the main title suit pending before Allahabad High Court were given the sensitive report of the survey with a directive that its contents should not be made public. The report was submitted to the Lucknow bench of the high court on February 15.

“Singhal has defied the court’s directives … and the AIBMAC will be moving an application for punishing him on this count. We will move the application on March 4 or 5,” he said.

Jilani refused to divulge what the survey had revealed. “Unlike the VHP leaders, we will abide by the order of the court and say whatever we have to only in the appropriate forum.”

None of the lawyers and parties to the dispute were willing to talk about the survey that the VHP working president had referred to. “We have been advised not to air our views and will say whatever we have to say in the court only,” an advocate involved in the Ayodhya case said.

He said that last August, the special bench of the high court had suggested that the Uttar Pradesh government order an excavation at the site to find if any Hindu temple existed there. But the VHP had publicly opposed the move.

“Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas chief Mahant Ramchandradas Paramhans has strongly objected to the move and threatened to launch an agitation if the idol of Ramlalla is shifted from the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum) for the excavation,” the advocate recalled.

Singhal and other VHP leaders had taken a similar stand, maintaining that excavations would mean violating the makeshift temple’s sanctity. Singhal had claimed that the Archaeological Survey of India in 1992 had proved that a Ram temple existed there and there was no need for another excavation.

“The court had taken a serious view of these statements and Paramhans and Singhal were hauled up for contempt of court at that time,” Jilani recalled. Singhal’s latest statement clearly amounted to contempt of court, he added.

Jilani said the AIBMAC would exercise “total restraint and will not issue any statement that could vitiate the atmosphere of amity and peace, which the VHP is bent upon disturbing”.

“It is for the people of the country and Hindus in particular to evaluate the situation and see as to who wants to vitiate the atmosphere and spoil the communal amity,” he added. “Creating hatred and barriers between the communities is wrong and such statements need not be reciprocated as they will further aggravate the situation.”

While Singhal was making his claim in Delhi, the special bench on Friday issued guidelines for the reporting of court proceedings by the media. Justices Sudhir Narain, J.A. Alam and Bhanwar Singh said that while the media was entitled to publish a fair and accurate report of the court proceedings, it should not air opinion of any person, including the parties, about the merits of the case.

The court’s clarification on Friday was issued on an application by the National Union of Journalists on press coverage of the proceedings.

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