The Supreme Court on Friday observed that before deciding the title dispute of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi row, it would re-examine whether a 1994 judgment which suggests that "a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open" needs to be revisited by a larger Bench.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra agreed to look into this issue first after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan - representing the main petitioner Mohammad Siddiqui - submitted that the 1994 judgment was wrong. At the previous hearing, Dhavan had commenced arguments and had started laying the foundation to make his case.
However, CJI Misra cautioned Dhavan, "if we agree with your propositions, we will refer the legal principles to be considered afresh by a five-judge bench. If we don't agree with your argument and come to the conclusion that the 1994 observations were made in the context of acquisition of land in Ayodhya, we may not refer it."
Senior counsels K Parasaran and CS Vaidynathan however opposed this proposition by submitting that observations made in the 1994 verdict had no relevance in deciding title suits. The judgment in 1994 was related to an acquisition matter and had nothing to do with the secular character.
However, Dhavan stressed his point and said that a mosque enjoys a particular position in Muslim law and once it is established and prayers are offered, then the same remains for all time to come as a property of Allah. The land then never reverts back to the donor or founder of the mosque and Muslim can offer prayer in such a mosque even if the structure is demolished. The land remains holy and continues to be a place of worship where Namaz can be offered.
"A mosque will remain a place of worship even after it has been destroyed," Dhavan said before a bench that also comprised Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.
Dhavan further challenged the 'status quo' issued against the disputed site on the grounds that when it recognized the rights of a Hindu to worship there, it ignored the rights of a Muslim to worship there as well.
Describing that the destruction of the mosque in 1992 was "barbaric", Dhavan said that the court granted protection to the idol of Lord Ram that was installed after.
Thus the 1994 status quo order needs to be revisited, Dhavan said since the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict that was being challenged had relied on it.
On December 6, 1992 karsevaks had destroyed the controversial structure known as Babri Masjid and razed to the ground. The court is hearing 13 appeals against a 2010 judgment by Allahabad High Court on four civil suits filed over the title of the land that is known to Hindus as the "Ram Janmabhoomi", or the land where Hindu God Lord Ram was born.
A three-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered the partition of the land equally among three parties - the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the deity, Ram Lalla.