SC spoils BJP’s poll dream of construction of Ram temple

Kushal Jeena

The Supreme Court has demolished the possibilities of a final verdict on Ram temple-Babri mosque dispute by postponing the date for the next hearing until January next year giving a severe jolt to the BJP’s efforts to push in its communal agenda ahead of next year general elections.

The decision has also raised doubts about the centre government’s ability to bring in an ordinance before the next hearing seeking Parliamentary permission to build a temple at the disputed site in the political sensitive state of Uttar Pradesh as it has the possibility of the Court quashing such an attempt for original case being sub-judice.

By its ruling the Court has ensured that religious sentiments are not stoked and exploited during the elections. Thus, making sure that the general elections are to be fought on issues other than communal, that has the potential of making it difficult for ruling right wing pro-Hindutva Bhartiya Janata Party to
repeat its previous performance in the Parliamentary elections.

The decision would resist those voices which are clamouring for an ordinance that could pave the way for the construction of a temple undermining the authority of the court and thereby creating a serious confrontation between the judiciary and the Parliament. The apex court in his landmark decision has made it clear that the dispute remains within its jurisdiction.

The court has not only restored the title suit but also made it clear that the government is only a receiver of the land that it had acquired in Ayodhya and it is only a trustee who will hand over the same to the party that wins the case in the court of law at the end of the day.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first address to the nation after taking over the reign of power at the centre from the ramparts of historic Red Fort had called for a 10-year moratorium on communal and sectarian issues. If he sticks to his resolve it would not be politically possible for anyone to demand a pre-emptive law to construct a temple just to win election.

The decision of the three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to defer the Ayodhya-Babri mosque title suit case till January next year has received sharp reactions from both seculars and those who were expecting a pro-temple verdict. Whereas those who value secular values welcomed the decision and their opponents are mounting pressure on the government to come out with an ordinance to build a Hindu temple.

Ï don’t want to comment on Supreme Court decision but it won’t send a good message down the line. It was not an election issue but one related to the faith of the majority community of the country,” said Keshav Maurya, deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh where the disputed site is located.

“Since Supreme Court has deferred the issue till January, we will mount pressure on the union government to bring a law for temple construction during the winter session of Parliament, “said Alok Kumar, the working president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a right wing outfit that has been spearheading pro-temple movement.

The fact remains that it is not an easy task for the centre government to initiate the process for the construction of a Hindu temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya through promulgation of an ordinance because in that case the government would have to give up its role of repository of the land that it acquired. The acquisition act is clear that the holding of land of by the Centre government is temporary.

The Supreme Court in 1994 had held that the acquisition of the disputed site and surrounding land is pending the resolution of the dispute regarding the disputed site. The centre is also required to maintain the status of the disputed site as it was just before the demolition of the mosque.

“In several judgement, the apex Court has held that the state cannot favour a particular religion or religious group. The Supreme Court in SR Bommai v/s Union of India case in 1994 had held three important principles of a secular state. One, the Constitution prohibits the establishment of a theocratic state. Two, the state is not only prohibited to establish any religion of its own but is also prohibited from identifying itself with or favouring any particular religion. Three, secularism under Indian Constitution does not mean the constitution of an atheist society but equal status extended to all religions without any bias in favour of or discrimination against any one of them,” said Avtar Singh Rawat, a senior counsel at the Supreme Court.

The Constitution principles make it clear that the state cannot decide to build a temple, not just in the disputed site but anywhere in India. If done, this would immediately mean that the state is favouring one religion over other. The Constitutional principles further complicate the situation in Ayodhya dispute because in this case there are competing claims for the ownership of the land.

If the Centre passes a law in favour of construction of a temple at Ayodhya, the move will be challenged, it would amount to a move by the state to build a religious structure, that is in contravention of the provisions of the Constitution. It becomes an existential problem for the very idea of a secular republic.

After realizing that the construction of Ram temple cannot be materialised before the next year Lok Sabha elections, the many in the ruling BJP led by its outspoken law maker of the upper House Subramanium Swamy have begun advocating for promulgation of an ordinance as next best option knowing that it has no chance in the Parliament to enact a law as the ruling conglomeration still doesn’t enjoy majority in the upper House. Indian Constitution mandates a government to a bill passed from both the Houses of Parliament to convert it into a federal law.

In Ayodhya case, the forces of Hindutva are not only asking for an early judgement but also seeking court to deliver a verdict in favour of construction of Ram temple dictating the court that its verdict must match their ideology,” said Bhupindra Singh Chauhan, another senior advocate at the Supreme Court.

The Ayodhya dispute that came into prominence during late 1980s when the BJP leader and former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani spearheaded a movement to build a temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya, a place where god Ram was born, over a century old mosque called Babri masjid built by Moghul emperor Babar in 1528.

The movement resulted in widespread communal clashes across the country killing thousands of people belonging to minority Muslim community. Later after the arrest of Advani on the way to Ayodhya, the socio-religious campaign took a political turn. The BJP has been using it as a political tool ever since to win electoral battles. The campaign culminated into the demolition of the ancient mosque on December 6, 1992. Currently, a makeshift Hindu temple exists there at the demolition site. The Hindu zealots have been seeking to build a ‘magnificent temple in place of temporary one.

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