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SC okays temple tarpaulin change

New Delhi, Feb. 25: The Supreme Court today asked the Faizabad district magistrate to take steps to replace the worn-out tarpaulin and ropes at the makeshift Ram temple in Ayodhya but asked the authorities to ensure “status quo” at the 67-acre plot adjoining the disputed site.

Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai directed that the old material be replaced with new ones of “similar size and quality”.

The order came on an application by the district administration to replace the material around the makeshift structure.

The court, however, rejected an application moved by the registrar of Allahabad High Court for replacing the two judicial officers who had been appointed by the high court to monitor “status quo” at the place.

The registrar had sought replacement of the observers on the ground that the officers were due to retire and the appeal against the high court’s September 2010 judgment on the Ram-Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid row was pending before the apex court.

The bench said the two judicial officers appointed by the high court in March 2003 as commissioners would supervise the change of tarpaulin and ropes.

The officers had been told to visit the place every fortnight and keep the high court updated about the situation in Ayodhya.

The bench also said the officers would “additionally see that the order of status quo is duly maintained”.

In its September 30, 2010, judgment, the high court had ordered the division of the disputed site into three parts but couldn’t satisfy any of the parties. It led to a bunch of petitions that challenged the verdict in the apex court.

On May 9, 2011, the top court had dubbed as “strange” the three-way division of the disputed site and stayed the verdict, saying none of the parties had demanded partition of the land.

While ordering status quo at the site, which means prayers at the makeshift temple would go on as usual, the court had restrained any kind of religious activity on the adjacent 67-acre plot, which had been taken over by the Centre.

All the parties to the suit had expressed satisfaction over the May 2011 order.