The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wary of ambush in House, Centre bets on court for Ayodhya break

New Delhi, Feb. 7: The move behind the Central government’s application before the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya land case is to dispose of the acquired 67.703 acres at its discretion so that the land could be handed over to Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas or any other similar organisation.

It is understood that the government is examining the possibility of doing this even before the title suit on the disputed area is decided by the courts in Uttar Pradesh.

If the government were to do this, it would need to issue an executive order or promulgate an Ordinance to hand over the land. However, this would be extremely difficult for the Centre to do immediately as Parliament is set to convene soon.

The government decision to opt for an executive order will create problems — it will end up allowing religious activity around the spot that is disputed; and will also create complications if the title suit of the disputed area goes against the Hindu groups.

The undisputed land has been acquired under the Ayodhya (Land Acquisition) Act. As of now, this land belongs to the Central government. However, the Act itself says it could be handed over to a body or organisation or even individual at a later stage. The aim of the Act is to hand over this land to the party that wins the title suit.

The title suit is on the exact site of the mandir-masjid. If the Muslim groups win the title, the rest of the acquired land goes to them to be used for construction purposes. If the Hindu groups win the title, the land would be handed over to them for the purposes of constructing a temple.

The government’s application before the Supreme Court filed this week says: “The state of uncertainty with regard to the approximately 67 acres of land is likely to generate problems even in the future and it is, therefore, necessary that the position becomes clear by a final decision of this honourable court (the Supreme Court).”

Were this to happen, the immediate legal hurdle is clear and the government can consider handing over the undisputed land (surrounding the disputed site) to a party of its choice through an executive order.

This will help the government avoid promulgating an Ordinance. For, an Ordinance has to go to Parliament for its passage as an Act or amendment to the existing Ayodhya Act, whereas an executive order does not face this hurdle.

Perhaps an amendment in the existing Ayodhya Act could be tried but that would depend on its passage in both the Houses. Even if the government succeeded in passing the amendment or a Bill or an Ordinance in the Lok Sabha, it will face problems in the Rajya Sabha where it is in minority.

An Ordinance promulgating the handing over of the land to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas or any other similar trust could be passed in a joint session of both Houses with a slender majority for the government. But once the apex court resumes hearings, the Ordinance, even after passage in a joint session, faces the danger of being struck down.

This is the reason why the Centre wants vacation of the apex court’s May 2002 order. That would help avert the complications of an Ordinance or an amendment to the Ayodhya Act and the Centre can pass an executive order.

The interlocutory application filed by the Centre says that the “situation has changed” in Ayodhya and, hence, the court’s restraining order on the acquired 67.703 acres should be vacated.

The application states: “The situation prevailing when the order was passed (in March 2002) was far different from the situation prevailing today. When the order was passed, the apprehension of breach of law and order and violation of earlier court orders was being openly voiced.”

“At this point of time, however, the situation has changed. Under the circumstances, the necessity of continuing an interim order does not survive. It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that the interim orders deserve to be vacated,” the application by the Union government said.

Once this legal hurdle is removed, it will be easier for the Centre to pronounce an executive order to hand over the land to the Ramjanmbhoomi trust.

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