The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ayodhya verdict agony for govt
- Court declines to pass interim order

New Delhi, March 6: The Supreme Court today reserved its judgment on the Centre’s petition seeking vacation of the stay on religious activity on the “undisputed” land in Ayodhya.

The five-member full Constitution bench heard day-long arguments for and against lifting the court’s March 2002 ban on any religious activity on the 67.703 acres acquired by the Centre, but declined to give an interim order.

The judgment of the bench, headed by Justice S. Rajendra Babu, might come in a week or two. It will settle whether status quo should be maintained on the “undisputed” land or whether it could be left with the Centre to do what it thinks fit — including handing over the plot to any organisation, such as the VHP or the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas.

The Centre, the Uttar Pradesh government, the VHP, the Sri Raja Rajeshwari Sitaram Trust, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Babri Masjid Movement Coordination Committee and the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee are among the parties to the case.

The Centre is arguing that the March 2002 stay order of the apex court should be vacated as it is against the spirit of the 1994 judgment upholding government acquisition of the “undisputed” land. The Uttar Pradesh government also wants the order vacated. So does the VHP, which wants the Centre to hand it the land. The Raja Rajeshwari Sitaram Trust, representing the “original owners” from whom the “disputed” 2.77 acres and the “undisputed” 67.703 acres were acquired, wants the land to be returned to it.

Others oppose the vacation of the stay on the ground that it would disturb “communal harmony, peace and tranquillity”.

Appearing for the Centre, solicitor-general Kirit Rawal said the “status quo” order (of not disturbing or altering the present status of the land) was only meant for the “disputed” 2.77 acres. It would be an “extremist” view to hold that the Centre could not do anything even on the “undisputed” land, he said.

Arguing against the petition, senior counsel and Congress MP Kapil Sibal said the ban on religious activity was imposed as there were fears that “communal harmony, peace and tranquillity” would be disturbed otherwise. The court should not pave the way for “communal disharmony”, he said.

The government “is bound by the Constitution to preserve the secular fabric of the country”, Rawal agreed. “But it could not ignore the repeated requests of a community for utilisation of the undisputed land for religious purposes” as Ayodhya was their “religious hub”, he said.

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