High Court verdict or Panchayat pronouncement?

The reliance of the Allahabad high court on the “faith and belief of Hindus”—that Lord Rama was born in the “area covered under the central dome of the disputed structure”—in trifurcating the Ayodhya title suit, has come in for sharp criticism across the English media.

***

The Hindu‘s deputy editor, Siddharth Varadarajan:

“The legal and political system in India stood silent witness to the crime of trespass, vandalism and expropriation [of the Babri masjid]. Eighteen years later, the country has compounded that sin by legitimising the “faith” and “belief” of those who took the law into their own hands.

“The “faith and belief” that the court speaks about today acquired salience only after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party launched a political campaign in the 1980s to “liberate” the “janmasthan.”

“Collectives in India have faith in all sorts of things but “faith” cannot become the arbiter of what is right and wrong in law. Nor can the righting of supposed historical wrongs become the basis for dispensing justice today.”

Former Delhi High Court judge Justice R.S. Sodhi in The Telegraph:

“I think this judgment is useless. It is a statuesque judgment. The court has gone into issues of belief, which it should not have. It has actually decided nothing.”

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan in The Telegraph:

“It is an absurd judgment. No legal right can be declared on the basis of people’s faith. They (the three judges) have decided on all kinds of irrelevant and emotional issues. There is no legal basis to the ruling that the disputed land should be divided into three parts.”

Jamia Milia Professor, Mukul Kesavan, in The Telegraph:
“The court also seemed to endorse the argument from faith in a way that is certain to be controversial. Both decisions, as they stand, might set precedents that could have worrying consequences for pluralism and the freedom of religious belief and practice, especially for disputes between a religious minority and a religious majority.”

Historian Irfan Habib in The Times of India:

“The compromise judgment has come at the cost of history and facts. It is improper (for the court) to accept the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) report on the historical fact. Weight has been given to belief. One should be careful in historical facts.”

The columnist Amulya Ganguli in DNA:

“The claim was based purely on a myth. Lord Ram is not a historical figure. He is a deity in the eyes of only a section of Hindus. All Hindus do not regard him with reverence. In south India, for instance, Ravan, another mythical figure who is Ram’s adversary, is more popular. In Bengal, Michael Madhusudan Dutt‘s Meghnad Badh Kavya is a literary classic extolling one of Ravan’s sons at Ram’s expense.

“Whether a plot of land can be legally awarded to a community on the basis of mere religious belief. The answer will also have to include the fact that claims on behalf of Hindus are being advanced by fundamentalists, not liberals. In fact, the latter regard the movement, which was carried on with two others asserting similar rights on two mosques in Varanasi and Mathura, as a distortion of Hinduism.”

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan in The Hindu:

“If this panchayati solution is to be endured, the degree of Muslim entitlement should have been left intact so that the site belonged to them. The destruction of the masjid was akin to the demolition of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, and people would say that India’s secular justice was majoritarian in nature without lending dignity to India’s minority.”

Constitutional expert and senior Supreme Court advocate P.P. Rao in The New Indian Express:

“It is more like a panchayat justice dividing the disputed property among the three contenders. And it is not clear how after dismissing the suit of the Sunni wakf board, one-third of the property is given to Muslims.”

Former Supreme Court chief justice A.H. Ahmadi in The Indian Express:

“There is no running away from the centrality of answering who has the title. I am not sure on what basis the Sunni waqf suit has been time-barred. But if the title is not theirs, how can one-third be a masjid now, and if the title is theirs, how can two-thirds be divided? There certainly can be a compromise but that should have happened after the verdict. The verdict should not appear like a decision of a panchayat foisted forcibly on all parties.”

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today