Author-Khushi, University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University


Sites that are sacred have great power.  They hold great symbolic meaning for both outsiders and members of the communities that regard them as sacred. Sometimes they begin to act as communal spaces unless it hold special significance for only one individual, who need not share it with others who have other interests. It might be necessary for members of a single, cohesive religious group to share it with one yet another. Many of the most well-known disputes over holy locations involve locations that are contested by several religious groups; one such example is the ongoing dispute in Israel on the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount , sometimes Even nonreligious sharing can also spark controversy; in the UK, for example, there have been disputes regarding Stonehenge’s historical and religious purposes. The article concentrates on the legal ramifications of one very long-running dispute, disagreement on Ayodhya Ram Temple/ Babri Masjid. North Indian town Ayodhya is located in the Uttar Pradesh state’s Faizabad district. Every major religion practiced in India has some link to it. Still, For our purposes, the relationships that Hindus and Muslims have with the location.

Various beliefs related to structure

Ayodhya was a Saivic centre for Hindus for many centuries, and in the seventeenth  Century developed became a major Vaishnavite hub in the century. Specifically, Ayodhya is viewed by Hindus are the people as birth place of Hindu God Rama. Similar to the Hindu accounts of belief , the Islamic account of Ayodhya’s history emphasizes how old the relationship between religion and the location is, dating back much longer than any conventional history could. Muslims contend that they have been connected to Ayodhya from Pre-Islamic era, when Noah and Seth, one of Adam and Eve’s children, were buried at Ayodhya , a  sizable number of religious tourists are still drawn to both grave sites. Ayodhya’s monarch was vanquished in combat by the first Mughal Emperor, and in 1528, his administrator erected a mosque in the city. Ayodhya’s numerous Muslim holy sites make it known as a “Khurd Mecca,” or little Mecca. The pre-1528 history of the site,  differs considerably between the two communities. The Hindu community asserts that  for the purpose of constructing a masjid first Mughal Emperor demolished an ancient and magnificent Ram temple and on the remains of temple, mosque was built . Whereas Muslims assert that it was vacant land and nothing was demolished for any such construction.

Keywords : Ayodhya Ram Lalla Virajman, Babri Masjid, Religion, Status quo , secularism

Legal Analysis of the issue

The groundwork for the settlement of these and other communal disputes by legal means was laid with the start of the British Crown’s direct administration over the region in 1856. A Hindu priest created a chabutra, or elevated platform for idols, in 1857 on a portion of the Babri Masjid property. Local Muslims objected to this, but the disagreement was settled by agreeing to build a wall between the mosque and the  Chabutra, subsequently dubbed the Janmastan Temple. Nonetheless, Muslims protested against the building of a clay chabutra in a petition to the local magistrate on November 30, 1858. In 1860, the Babri Masjid was formally recognized as a Muslim place of worship & decision to let the Janmastan priest to build a temple above the Chabutra were turned down in 1883–1885.21 The matter came before the District Court in 1886. There were three reasons why the judge rejected the petition.

First of all, It is regrettable that a masjid was constructed on land that Hindus specifically hold sacred, but because the incident happened 356 years ago, there is no way to address the issue. Second, any alteration can have the opposite effect of what is intended and destabilize the system. Thirdly, the Hindu priest’s assertion that he was the landowner was unsupported by any documentation. The Judicial Commissioner of Avadh upheld the District Court’s decision, stating in his ruling dated November 1, 1886, that the plaintiff’s claim was quickly dismissed by the executive and Civil Courts. The appeal was dismissed,the parties were asked to maintain status quo. An internal Muslim dispute in 1943 -45 was also promptly resolved, with a legislative inquiry concluding that a Sunni Muslim founded the Babri  Masjid, later observation citing that such site was being used by both Shias & Sunnis,  still being led by Sunni Waqf board.

The controversy changed course in  Dec, 1949.As claimed by Muslims ,a group of Sadhus  lightened sacred flames around graveyard of mosque to support their claims Later, idols believed to have been placed there miraculously by Hindus—Ram, Lakshmana, and Sita—were found inside the mosque. Gould stated it as a cause of sensation between both communities. The local authorities ordered the Babri Masjid gates to be locked and forbade both communities from using it because they believed that the dispute would likely cause a breach of the peace, since the argument increased tensions in the community. An appointed receiver made arrangements for protection of contested property and assumed control of it on January 5, 1950. Many lawsuits and countersuits ensued, which were eventually combined into a one lawsuit in 1964.

The primary lawsuit was filed in 1961 by The Sunni Central Board of Waqf, UP, seeking the declaration and regaining of ownership of the mosque and cemetery following removal of idols. Death of receiver in 1970 created a fresh dispute that could only come to an end in 1987. A Hindu nationalist group called Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) started a campaign in 1984 to “liberate” the Ram Janmabhumi and reconstruct the beautiful Ram temple in Ayodhya.  In 1986, a Hindu intervenor who was not involved in any of the primary lawsuits obtained an order that gave him permission to enter the building freely for prayer, something that was prohibited by the interim order of 1950 ,this time Hon’ble Judge K.M. Gupta stated that opening the gates and allowing the idols within to be seen will not, under any circumstances, have an impact on the Muslims or any other members of the other group. The tension between both the groups accelerated when the UP State government acquired 2.77 acres of disputed land on 7 October 1991.

The government argued that this was to promote tourism and provide amenities for pilgrims. The acquisition was challenged on the basis that the land was Waqf property, and so could not be acquired under the relevant legislation; and that the exercise of power was colourable having malafide intention for Muslims, whereas looking upon merits and facts of the case , an interim order of Hon’ ble High court allowed the acquisition. Since both the parties were in eager urge to actual title holder of disputed Land , and no such decision was being given by Hon’ble courts in order to prevent breach of peace. Dharma Sansad, on 31st of October 1992 announced resumption of Karseva. As a consequence of the then  Prime Minister, PV Narsimha Rao’s continuous appeal to Hon’ble supreme court to intervene , the occasion being of symbolic importance was allowed , along with efforts being ensured to prevent any miscarriage of peace .The  UP State Government assured the Court the protection of mosque & The High Court appointed a District Judge as an observer who would report periodically.

Despite all these assurances, the Babri Masjid stood demolished on 6 Dec,1992. Following the demolition, the World Hindu Lawyers Association, a lesser-known forum, petitioned the High Court in a Writ Petition, asking for the deity’s blessing in the temporary Hindu temple. They asked the judge to grant them permission to use their constitutional freedom to practice one’s religion. In the prersuance , Justices H.N. Tilhari and A.N. Gupta ordered in their ruling that the orders imposed under  Section 144 CrPC  be relaxed, and further ordered state officials to permit the petitioners, who are Hindus and followers of Ram, to receive darshan in the temporary Ayodhya temple, decision being challenged in Hon’ble supreme court in order to maintain status quo.Following the ruling of the Supreme Court on October 24, 1994, the High Court’s proceedings were restarted in January 1996 and lasted until the Allahabad High Court rendered a decision in September 2010.Delay has been described as the ‘pathology of the Indian legal system’ and has been a cause of concern.

Even though it has always existed in the Indian judicial system, delays typically last between ten and fifteen years. But in the Ayodhya dispute, without even a preliminary trial, the delay was prolonged to 42 years . In such lengthy litigations , interim relief ,has been always crucial that has also spanned generations , whereas on the other hand, each decision of title centred around maintenance of status quo . After a drawn-out trial, three rulings totalling over 8000 pages were issued ,but all the three judges noted undesirability of very long period which could have been resolved before 1986 unlocking order, ultimately marking tripartite sharing between two communities: 2/3 to Hindus and 1/3 to Muslims. Besides , nothing matched then govt’s attempts to extinguish the sacredness of the place were beyond its competence.  The verdict was delayed by the Supreme Court in May 2011 because they deemed it to be “strange and surprising.” It was specifically mentioned that none of the parties had requested the relief that the High Court had given, which was partition. Rather, each party had pursued exclusive rights throughout the whole precinct.

The status quo was mandated by the Supreme Court until the matter was decided by the Supreme Court. In February 2018 ,the Supreme Court made it clear it would approach the case as a pure land dispute and began to hear the substance of the case on 23rd March 2018.The writers of the Constitution understood that secular principles were necessary for maintaining social cohesion and religious peace in a multi-ethnic and multireligious nation such as India. The fundamental human rights of all Indian citizens, particularly those of the minority groups, were to be safeguarded on the basis of these principles. Indian secularism attempted to address some of the injustices that existed in Indian culture, Jacobsohn described it as “ameliorative secularism.”

Ayodhya verdict by Hon’ble Supreme court

Legal issues framed

  • First, what precisely are the boundaries of a Hindu idol’s legal personality? Stated differently, how close is the legal personality of a real person to the artificial legal personality that courts have bestowed upon a Hindu idol ( Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman)

Thus, two tenets used by courts support the validity of the Hindu idol as a legal or “juristic” person. The first is to acknowledge the testator’s religious intent as a legal body that is able to own property in an ideal sense in the absence of  establishment of a trust. In order to guarantee that the pious aim is fulfilled, the second step involves combining the pious purpose itself with the idol that represents it. The Hindu idol is a legitimate person as it is conceived.

  • Whether property of corporeal nature (Asthan Shri Ram Janam Bhumi Ayodhya) be ascribed legal personality?

The Apex court here held that In this instance, all competing ownership rights to the in question land would be annihilated with the recognition of “Asthan Sri Ram Janam Bhumi” as a juristic person. The awarding of “absolute title” as a consequence of the awarding of legal personality on land) would, in actuality, negate the significance of title altogether. Furthermore, opposing claims would be eliminated solely on the grounds of the devotees’ faith and belief rather than as a result of established legal rules. This is not permissible under law. Further , referring to case of  THE MOSQUE, MASJID SHAHID GANJ V. SHIROMANI GURUDWARA PRABANDHAK , Apex court held that conferring legal personality on immovable property leads to consequences that fundamentally have no Nexus to limited purpose for which juristic personality is conferred. The Supreme Court decided that if the adherence to constitutional ideals is to be maintained, the adjudication of civil disputes pertaining to private property must continue to be under the purview of the courts. Hence , decided it couldn’t be attributed a juristic personality.

  • Whether suit filed by Nirmohi Akhara was barred by limitation?

Limitation Act of 1908 was in force on the day of Institution of suit , i.e. why Hon’ble High court held in split verdict 2:1 that the suit by Nirmohi Akhara  was barred by limitation, Justice S.U. Khan presenting dissenting opinion.

  • Nature and scope of section 145 ,crpc?

Section 145 is recognised to be a branch of preventive jurisdiction of Magistrate , mere CUSTODIA LEGIS , as it is only invoked if Magistrate satisfies that issue is such that has potential to likely cause breach of peace. The section donot purports to decide party’s title or possession of land .Actual substantive right to decide such title or possession vests with civil courts in civil proceedings. It also constitutes a reason why Nirmohi Akhara cannot take plea that since no order was passed under section 145, crpc i.e. why no limitation period commenced.

  • The suit of 1885 and Res judicata barring subsequent suits ?

Held, There is absolutely no merit in the contention that the principles of constructive res judicata will bar the subsequent suits. The parties were distinct. The claim in the earlier suit was distinct. The basis of the claim was indeed not that which forms the subject matter of the subsequent suits.

  • Evidentiary Value of The Reliance On Travelogues, Gazetteers And Books?

Held ,while Gazetteers have been noticed in several decisions of this Court, it is equally important to note that the reliance placed on them is more in the nature of corroborative material. The evidentiary value to be ascribed to their contents necessarily depends upon the context and is subject to a careful evaluation of their contents.

  • Concept of Possession and Adverse Possession?

A person who sets up a plea of adverse possession must establish both possession which is peaceful, open and continuous – possession which meets the requirement of being “nec vi nec claim and nec precario.” To substantiate a plea of adverse possession, the character of the possession must be adequate in continuity and in the public because the possession has to be to the knowledge of the true owner in order for it to be adverse. Held, The evidence in the records indicate that Hindus, post the setting up of the railing have, in any event, been in possession of the outer courtyard. On this basis alone, the plea of adverse possession set up by the plaintiffs in respect of the entirety of the area must fail.

  • Is doctrine of lost grant applicable?

Since a plea of adverse possession is predicated on title vesting in someone other than the purported grantee, it would be interpreted against the application of the doctrine of lost grant . The  Privy Council’s and this Court’s rulings acknowledging the doctrine as a rule of evidence demonstrate that the concept needs to be used cautiously. The concept is an evidence-based guideline rather than an independent, substantive basis for the recognition of titles. According to Section 110 of the Evidence Act of 1872, it is the burden of proof to establish ownership when there is a doubt as to whether a person in possession of something is its rightful owner. The theory of lost grant must inevitably follow that it has no applicability in this particular instance in the absence of any pleadings or evidence that may be used to support an assumption that the doctrine is applicable.

  • Analysis on Muslim claim of possession?

The travelogues (chiefly Tieffenthaler and Montgomery Martin) provide a detailed account both of the faith and belief of the Hindus based on the sanctity which they ascribed to the place of birth of Lord Ram and of the actual worship by the Hindus at the Janmasthan; William Finch (1608-11) and Tieffenthaler who visited India between 1743-1785 provided an account of Ayodhya. Conspicuous in both the accounts are references to worship by the Hindus to Lord Ram. The positive account of Hindu worship to Lord Ram is of probative value.

There is no evidence to the contrary by the Muslims to indicate that their possession of the disputed structure of the mosque was exclusive and that the offering of namaz was exclusionary of the hindus.


On 9th of November 2019, the  final case of M.SIDDIQ (D) THR LRS V. MAHANT SURESH DAS AND ORS. Settled unanimously , pronouncing a judgement of 1045 pages by five judge bench of Hon’ble supreme court led by then ,Chief justice of India , Ranjan Gagoi where The Indian government was given a three-month deadline by the court to establish a board of trustees and establish a trust to construct the Ram Mandir temple. The Indian government will be the owner of the contested land, which will thereafter be given to the Trust upon its establishment. The Court directed that the full 2.77 acres of contested land be set aside for the construction of a temple, and that the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board be given 5 acres of alternative land to be used for the construction of a mosque at a suitable location in Ayodhya. The division of the contested land by the Allahabad High Court in 2010 was deemed erroneous by the Court. Further, ASI submission that Masjid was built atop the structure that was indigenous and non Islamic was taken as an ordinary opinion owing to dissenting submissions by Muslim claimants .

Review petitions

Review petitions were filed in reaction to the Ayodhya ruling, which was overturned on December 12, 2019, since the court found no basis on which “to entertain review petitions” even after “carefully going through” the supplied papers that were attached. However, the disagreement was settled through an adjudication process in which a fair legal system was established and all parties were given an equal opportunity to submit their case. This procedure as a whole deserves to be praised as a secularist win. It is never thought that criticism of judgement is unwarranted; rather, it is a fundamental tenet of a robust democracy. The idea of inviolability and inevitability, which must be presented as a secularist advantage to stop violence or strife.


The Indian constitution has always been inherently secular, which is why Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said on the day of the ruling that “the verdict should not be seen as win or loss for anybody. We have the essential essence of Rashtra Bhakti, whether we are practicing Ram or Rahim bhakti.” Also inaugurating world’s third largest temple  in Asia on 22nd of January,  2024 , at  its  Pran pratistha (consecration ceremony) Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked  “ Influence of Rama is global and stands tall as unity of India  and shaping new India with social Harmony , economic prosperity and scientific progress.  The event itself grabbed very tightly nerves of unity as  100 dignitaries from 55 nations including Akhbar Taj, Justice Nazeer, user Ahmad Illyasi were invited sending  messages of peace and brotherhood  among  all and reiterating  the concept of VASUDEV KATUMBAKAM. Impact of Ram Mandir has been no less than a Messiah for a region said to steeping in poverty and backwardness.


Reports of foreign brokerage firm Jefferies underlines that event doesn’t possess only spiritual significance but also substantial economic impact .$10 billion makeover encompassing new airport,  railway station,  road connectivity is anticipated to make multiplier impact. Ayodhya is no less than a catalyst with influx of tourists with projections reacting  over 50 millions annually, transforming it from a quiet town to spirituality destination akin to Mecca and Vatican. Moreover  , Acc.to  SBI research reports, Indian economy is posed to achieve a milestones of $5trillion economy with growths rate surpassing 7%where Uttar Pradesh is expected to command second highest weightage in Indian economy, surpassing Norway in terms of GDP. The temple also posed commendable impact on telecommunication sector.


No doubt ,India strives testimony of providing justice to its citizens at any cost . Any such imuendo that such revival is against secular credentials has  no legs to stand upon, as it is not so distant future when a new mosque would adore the region being largest mosque in Asia and the city Ayodhya being hub of two religious destinations. The city has potential to become symbol of Hindu Muslim amity and showcase SARVA DHARAM SAMBHAVA to entire globe .However , it stands prudent to let local people take the lead how they wish to go about their lives in changed environment. Politicians from outside world are best advised to keep away and not to polarize region with their viscous politics.


  1. Books / Commentaries / Journals Referred
    • Ayodhya :Prof Peter W Edge & Dr M.C. Rajan.
    • Ayodhya issue : jaffrelot
  1. Cases Referred
    • AIRONLINE 2019 SC 1420, 2020 (1) SCC 1, (2019) 15 SCALE 1,
    • The Mosque Masjid Shahid Ganj V. Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak committee , Amritsar,AIR 1940 PC 116
  1. Statutes Referred
    1. Constitution of India
    2. Places of worship Act 1991
    3. Ayodhya Land acquisition act

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