News Analysis

Too Many Legal Aberrations in Babri Verdict

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam points out some of the anomalies in Babri Masjid title suit verdict and wonders about its ominous implications for future.

In Ayodhya, myth and history, fact and fiction, desire and memory mingle with each other in a strange, fascinating mix. That cocktail could be heady and knock out reason and logic imperceptibly.

One has all the sympathy for people sitting in judgment over the issue of title to the land in Ayodhya where the Babri masjid stood. As the verdict on the title suit amply shows, the Ayodhya mystique overturned quite a few things in standard legal procedure.

Here are some of those, tentatively reached at prior to a more exhaustive reading of the voluminous text that comprises the rulings of the three honourable judges.

The first impression that a person with average intelligence and education (not necessarily legal education) gets is the tenor and substance of the verdict that looks and sounds less like a judgment of a court of judicature and more like a piece of arbitration. This could set a trend that, if allowed, would change the very quality of justice in the years ahead.

The second is another departure from standard practice: if the Sunni Wakf Board’s plea was rejected (it was, according to the court, time-barred), how come it got one-third of the property. The same goes with the Nirmohi Akhara, whose plea was also rejected, but got another third of the property.

Is that possible at all? Is there a precedent? Also, senior independent lawyers have opined that the Wakf Board plea was filed before the lapse of time mandated for debarring.

Yet another intriguing aspect is its decisive dependence on the “faith” of one of the parties (overlooking that of the other). The point to be remembered is that faith is not judicable.

Another point of law: a final decree, allocating shares in disputed property comes after a verdict in response to petition from the parties for allocation of shares. This one is both a judgment and a final decree of sorts, even though nobody petitioned for it.

The honourable judges, being deeply conscious of the non-judicable nature of faith, tried to get some sustenance from the “evidence” provided by the Archeological Survey of India’s controversial “findings” that were rejected by a large panel of eminent historians as untenable, contrived and murky.

That the ASI “findings” should not have been relied upon by the honourable judges is clear from a plethora of facts. The historians opposing the ASI faulted it on basic procedures and methodology, to begin with.

An obvious drawback was the fact that people who had demolished the mosque could have easily put “artefacts” deep inside the debris to later claim them as “proof” of a temple under the mosque. They have never been short of such tactics.

One particular exhibit that was produced as an evidence of a temple below it was the Anayachandra inscription, a sandstone piece about whose source the officials of ASI were never sure. The VHP claimed this inscription “proved” Babri Masjid was the exact birth place of Shri Ram. Later, historian Irfan Habib pointed out that this could be the Inscription XLIV housed in the Lucknow museum that has gone missing. This inscription has been mentioned in historical works on the Sharaqi (Muslim) architecture.

The ASI claimed that the structure below the Babri Masjid was built with surkhi and lime mortar. However, surkhi and lime mortar was introduced by Muslims in India, and there was no question of a pre-Islamic structure using that mortar.

One of the artefacts that the mosque breakers were enthusiastic about was a heavy bell. They said it was a temple bell dug from under the debris of the mosque. The Frontline magazine published a close up picture of it. The words CARLTON HOTEL were clearly etched on it in English, in all caps. This now old depricit hotel in Lucknow was once frequented by the British in the early 20th century in its heyday.

From all this we can very well guess where we are headed as a country. It could be a future where history counts for little, and law for even less. Imagine a nightmarish scenario like that and you don’t have to be a Muslim to get worried.
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