[Breaking] Supreme Court declines to refer Ram Mandir-Babri case to Constitution Bench

[Breaking] Supreme Court declines to refer Ram Mandir-Babri case to Constitution Bench

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court today held that the Ram Mandir-Babri case need not be referred to a Constitution Bench. Effectively, the Court held that its 1994 judgment in Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India need not be revisited.

The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

Justice Bhushan penned one judgment on behalf of himself and CJI Misra, while Justice Nazeer wrote a dissenting judgment.

The observations in the Ismail Faruqui judgment on mosques not being essential to religion is in the context of acquisition of the mosque and made with respect to the facts of that case, Justice Bhushan held.

“The use of “particular significance” in Ismail Faruqui judgment is only in the context of immunity from acquisition.”

Justice Bhushan further held that the Ismail Faruqui judgment will not impact the decisions in suits. Thus, the majority opinion held that there was no need for the matter to be referred to a Constitution Bench.

However, Justice Nazeer dissented, observing, that questionable observations in Ismail Faruqui have permeated the Allahabad High Court verdict. He was of the opinion that Ismail Faruqui needs to be brought in line with the Shirur Mutt case.

As a result of the 2:1 judgment, the matter will be decided by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court.

In the Ismail Faruqui judgment, the Supreme Court had held that while offering prayer or worship is a religious practice, offering prayer at every location where such prayers can be offered would not be an essential or integral part of such religious practice, unless the place has a particular significance for that religion.

The test of comparative significance, as it came to be called, was strongly opposed by Senior Counsel Rajeev Dhavan. Appearing for Sunni Waqf Board, Dhavan had submitted that every place of worship of every religion is entitled to protection and comparative significance cannot be used to resolve inter-faith disputes.

Dhavan had placed heavy reliance on Justice BN Kirpal’s opinion in the TMA Pai Foundation judgment, quoting from that verdict,

“The one billion population of India consists of six main ethnic groups and fifty-two major tribes; six major religions and 6,400 castes and sub-castes; eighteen major languages and 1,600 minor languages and dialects. The essence of secularism in India can best be depicted if a relief map of India is made in mosaic, where the aforesaid one billion people are the small pieces of marble that go into the making of a map.

Each person, whatever his/her language, caste, religion, has his/her individual identity, which has to be preserved so that when pieced together it goes to form a depiction with the different geographical features of India.”

The Court had heard other Senior Counsel too before reserving its verdict on July 20 this year.

The hearings were also marked by a constant war of words between Dhavan and other Senior Counsel and ASGs appearing in the case.

Read the timeline of the case here.

Read the judgment below. 

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news