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‘Original’ owners vs temple troops Hindu groups to clash over ‘undisputed’ land

New Delhi, March 5: Two Hindu groups, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rajarajeswari Sitaram Trust, are set to clash in the Supreme Court tomorrow as a full constitutional bench begins hearing the Ayodhya case.

The trust claims to be the “original owner” of the undisputed 67.703 acres acquired by the Centre. The government is seeking vacation of a court stay on religious activity on this land.

Describing VHP activists as “miscreants” who have “placed stones, patios, pillars etc” on the land, the trust alleges that “police and other persons required to manage and guard the acquired area have colluded with these elements (VHP) and have helped them move on the land”.

In its interlocutory application, which will be taken up with the Centre’s plea by the five-judge bench, the trust contends that the VHP “does not own even an inch of the land” either on the undisputed or the disputed plot. It demands that the government hand over the undisputed land to the trust since it is the “original owner”.

Claiming to be a religious trust “constituted by the then King of Deara, Raja Rudra Pratap Singh, in 1893”, it says the ruler had “succeeded to the estate conferred upon his uncle Raja Rustam Sahi in 1859 by Lord Caning”. A copy of the “sanad” granting the “jagir” to Rustam Sahi by Canning is included in the application.

Ranupali area, containing four villages, is the bone of contention as “both the disputed structure (Babri Mosque-Ram Temple) as well as the (undisputed) acquired area are situated” here, the application says. All four villages, including Kot Ramchandra where the mosque-temple exists, were handed over by the Raja to the trust.

The Centre has sought vacation of the apex court’s March 2002 order that no religious activity should be carried out even on the undisputed land. Once the order is vacated, as per a 1994 Supreme Court judgment, the undisputed land could be handed over to a group or body or organisation or association or restored to the original owners. Fearing that the Centre might give the land to the VHP, the trust has demanded that it should be handed over to the “original owner”.

The 1994 judgment on the constitutional validity of the Ayodhya (Land Acquisition) Act said the Centre could acquire the undisputed land. In the same breath, it said that as there was no dispute over the plot of 67.703 acres, the government could even restore it to the original owners.

According to the judgment, the government could hand over the undisputed land to the rightful owner once an area required for access to the disputed land was earmarked. This is to facilitate construction of a temple or mosque depending on who wins the title suit.

The apex court’s order of March 13, 2002 said: “On the 67.703 acres of acquired land located in various plots detailed in the schedule to the acquisition of certain area at Ayodhya (Land Acquisition) Act, 1993, which is vested in the central government, no religious activity of any kind by anyone, either symbolic or actual, including bhumipuja or shila puja, shall be permitted or allowed to take place.”

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