The Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, on Tuesday adjourned the hearing in the Ayodhya case for February 8, 2018. The stakeholders in the case had moved the top court after the Allahabad High Court directed the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Lord Ram Lalla to settle for a three-way division of the disputed site.
Citing political ramifications, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board, asked the apex court to hear the matter only in July 2019. Appellant Muslim parties, meanwhile, questioned the reason for hearing the case now and wondered if there was some kind of “hurry”.
Sibal told the top court, “Why was it not heard earlier? Why suddenly now? …This is perhaps the most important litigation in the history of India because it will decide the country’s future… It has serious ramifications… So send it to five or seven judges… Please hear the case which has ramifications on polity of India… for July 2019.”
On December 6, 1992, a large crowd of Hindu kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had organised a rally at the site involving 1,50,000 volunteers, known as ‘kar sevaks’. The rally turned violent, and the crowd overwhelmed security forces and tore down the mosque.
A subsequent inquiry into the incident found 68 people responsible for the demolition, including several leaders of the BJP and the VHP. The demolition also resulted in several months of inter-communal rioting between the Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people.
Here is the sequence of events related to the case so far:
December 5, 2017: Supreme Court defers the commencement of final hearing in the Ayodhya dispute matter to February 8, 2018. The stakeholders had moved the SC after the Allahabad High Court directed the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Lord Ram Lalla to settle for a three-way division of the disputed site. READ MORE
August 11, 2017: Supreme Court schedules hearing of 13 appeals in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on December 5, 2017, the eve of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 15th century mosque.
August 8, 2017: Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board informs the Supreme Court that they would settle for a masjid located in a “Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Maryada Purushottam Sri Ram.”
May 30, 2017: Senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar charged with criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
April 19, 2017: Supreme Court revives conspiracy charges against LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and 13 others in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition case.
April 6, 2017: Supreme Court indicates it will use its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to transfer the Babri Masjid demolition related trial in Rae Bareilly against top BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to Lucknow, where a CBI court was hearing conspiracy and other serious criminal charges against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” for the actual act of razing down the 15th century mosque.
March 23, 2017: A Supreme Court Bench of Justices PC Ghose and Rohinton Nariman posted for detailed hearing the CBI appeal against the dropping of the criminal conspiracy charge against veteran BJP leader LK Advani and other top party leaders after two weeks.
March 21, 2017: Suggesting an out-of-court rapprochement among rival parties in the 68-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar advises peace negotiations instead of a pitched court battle, even offering help to settle the fight amicably.
December 25, 2014: Mohammad Farooq, the oldest litigant in Babri Masjid case passes away. Farooq, a resident of Ayodhya, was one of the seven main litigants from Muslim side in the 1949 Babri Masjid case.
May 9, 2011: Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya dispute.
February, 2011: CBI moves Supreme Court, argues that “the actual demolition of the Babri Masjid and the continuous assault on media persons form a single connected transaction and can well be a concerted conspiracy.”
September 30, 2010: The Allahabad High Court distributes the 2.77 acres of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site into three parts, giving each to Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman.
September 28, 2010: Supreme Court rejects petition for deferment and gives the nod to the Allahabad High Court to deliver the judgment. The High Court chooses September 30 as verdict day.
September 23: The plea for an out-of-court settlement reaches Supreme Court and the apex body says it would hear it again on September 28.
July 26, 2010: The bench reserves its judgment and advised all parties to solve the issue amicably. But no one was keen.
June 30, 2009: The Liberhan Commission, constituted soon after the Babri Masjid demolition by the P.V. Narasimha Rao-led government, submits its report. In its report, retired High Court Judge MS Liberhan concluded that several BJP leaders had a role in the incident.
August 31, 2003: All India Muslim Personal Law Board says it would challenge the ASI report.
August 22, 2003: ASI submits its report to the Allahabad High Court, saying it had found features of a 10th century temple beneath the site of the masjid.
March 5, 2003: The Allahabad High Court orders the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to excavate the disputed site in order to determine whether a temple existed where the mosque stood.
May 4, 2001: Special Judge SK Shukla drops conspiracy charge against 13 accused, including Advani and Kalyan Singh. Bifurcates Crimes 197 and 198.Allahabad HC upholds May 4, 2001 special court order, dismisses the CBI’s revision petition for a direction to proceed with the conspiracy charge against Advani and others.
December 6,1992: The disputed structure was brought down by kar sevaks and a makeshift temple was placed in its place. The PV Narasimha Rao-led Congress government then moved court for status quo.
November 1990: Advani’s rath is stopped and he is arrested in Samastipur, Bihar. Dissatisfied with the development, the BJP withdraws its support to the VP Singh government, triggering fresh elections. The saffron party makes giant strides in the assembly elections by winning a majority.
September 25,1990: Advani launches a rath yatra (pilgrimage procession) from Somnath to Ayodhya to galvanise support for the issue countrywide.
1989: Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi allows shilanyas or a ground-breaking ceremony in an undisputed site close to the structure. The hearing of the case is subsequently shifted to the High Court.
February 1, 1986: Faizabad district judge orders the gates of the structure be opened for Hindus to offer prayers. Babri Masjid Action Committee is formed soon after this.
1984: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad constitutes a group to continue the movement as BJP leader L K Advani is made the leader of the campaign.
1961: Sunni Central Board of Waqfs in Uttar Pradesh files a case claiming the mosque, and argues that the surrounding area was a graveyard.
1959: Nirmohi Akhara, one of the main parties to the dispute, and others file a case and sought permission again to conduct prayers.
1950: Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das, the chief of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, and Gopal Singh Visharad file suits in Faizabad, seeking permission to pray before the installed idols. The puja was allowed though the inner courtyard gates remain locked.
1949: Towards the end of December 1949, idols of Lord Ram appeared inside the mosque, allegedly put there by Hindus. It led to widespread protests and both communities filed cases, Hashim Ansari for Muslims and Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das for Hindus. The government declared the site as disputed and locked the gates to it.
1528: The Babri Masjid, a mosque in Ayodhya, is constructed by Mir Baki on the orders of Mughal emperor Babar. According to the Hindu community, it is built on the foundations of a temple which marked the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. This contention lingered on for several years.