Ayodhya review petition: A bird’s eye view

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After passing of the historic landmark Ayodhya judgement, forty well-known persons of the country had filed a joint plea review against the judgement. The petitioners included persons from diverse backgrounds, ranging from academicians to activists.

The submission of these petitioners was that they had found language, tenor and orders which have extended the range of the SLP from a title conflict to a dispute based on the faith of the Muslims and Hindu. 

Features of the Ayodhya Judgement

The judgement was passed unanimously by five judges of the Supreme Court. The court dismissed the claims of Nirmohi Akhara and Shia Waqf Board who, earlier in Allahabad High court judgement, had got one-third share (of total 2.77 acres).

The court, relying on the ASI reports, said that ASI excavations prove that Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land. The court also held that there is an underlying structure beneath the disputed structure but the structure was not Islamic.

The court also recognized the fact that Hindus had been praying just outside the structure after 1500 and they have always believed that birthplace of Lord Ram was in the inner courtyard of the mosque.

The fact that the underneath structure discovered was un-Islamic repudiated the case of Muslim parties that it was based on the vestiges of an Idgah, which the party was unable to prove. This was one of the solid reasons behind the Supreme Court’s decision to decide in favour of the Ram Temple.

Not just this, Muslim parties could not give confirmations of namaz being offered in the mosque before 1856-57. On the other side, the court observed that the Hindus kept on venerating the site in various ways, such as through parikramas (circumambulation).

Who will get what?

According to the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya judgement, the title of the land has been given to Ramlalla Virajman and the disputed side has been given to Ramjanmbhoomi Nyas. The court also ordered Centre to frame a scheme within 3 months and set up a trust for construction of a temple.

In the judgement, the Supreme Court also said that Sunni Waqf Board will be allotted another 5 acres of land in a prominent part of Ayodhya by the state government for the mosque.

Secularism in India with respect to this Judgement

The controversy in this historic judgement is that one segment of people believe that the Supreme Court gave weight to the majoritarian faith which led to such a judgement. The Supreme Court in the current matter tried to follow the Indian Model of secularism which exhibits the existence of all religions peacefully together.

Here we must remember that secularism has to address the concerns of all communities – both majority and minority.  The judgement of the Supreme Court of India in this matter tries to create a balance and harmony between Hindu-Muslims in India. But here is what is posing questions: the Supreme Court, even after stating that the Babri Masjid demolition was illegal, did not punish those who committed this barbaric act.

Concept of Review Petition

The concept of review petition comes from Article 137 of the Indian Constitution which says that, subject to provisions of any law and rules made under Article 145, the Supreme Court has the power to review any judgment pronounced or order made by it.

The word “review” in legal terminology means that a judicial re-examination of the case is done in order to rectify the error and  prevent gross injustice. Under Section 114 of Code of Civil Procedure, a provision of review is laid down which gives substantive right to review. The review petition is filed within thirty days from the date of judgement or order under the Supreme Court Rules,1966.

The Power given under the Article is firstly, subject to the any law made by the Parliament or any other rules made by the Apex Court and secondly, it is to be exercised under the rules made by the court in pursuance of Art.145 of the Constitution on the grounds mentioned under Order XLVII, Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. Therefore, review is a very serious matter and hence review will lie in Supreme Court only if the following conditions are met:

  • Discovery of new and important matter or evidence.
  • Error on Record; error must be self-evidentiary and it should not require any examination to prove it.
  • Other sufficient reason which is to be decided by the court itself where review petition has been filed. Some of the situations where courts can use these powers are in case of violation of a fundamental right or principles of natural justice, a mistake of the court, judgement being obtained by fraud or earlier order being given by court without jurisdiction

Landmark Review Petitions

In the case of CMC Vellore v. UOI or the NEET case, a 3-judge division bench of the SC, by a 2:1 majority verdict, had quashed National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test for admission to MBBS/BDS courses when various petitioners went to Supreme Court.

The government of India subsequently filed a review petition to allow the government to conduct NEET for admission to MBBS/BDS courses. The Supreme Court decided to hear afresh on the validity of NEET. A 5-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court later upheld NEET. 

In the landmark 2G Spectrum Case, the government of India filed a review petition in Supreme Court seeking partial review of the court’s order which had quashed 122 licenses. The Government questioned the Supreme Court’s authority overruling against the first-come-first-served policy but stayed away from challenging the cancellation of 122 licences issued during the tenure of A Raja as Telecom Minister. On the same day, Sistema, the majority shareholder in MTS India too filed a review petition in Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepted the Government’s review petition on limited grounds.

Basis of review petition of Ayodhya Judgement

The basis of the review petitions in the aftermath of Ayodhya judgement was that the petitioners were aggrieved by the decisions of the Supreme Court which, according to them, has direct effect on the syncretic culture of the country and its secular fabric envisaged in the Constitution.

Agreeing to the fact that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram in spite of there being no conclusive proof of evidence of existence of a temple at the site where Babri Masjid was built was one such aggravating factor. The petitioners stated that the Honourable Supreme Court, by relying on the belief of the existence of a temple, over the evidence of the existence of the mosque, went in violation of Constitutional Principles of equality and freedom of the religion.

The petitioners also argued that the judgement rewards those who acted illegally by trespassing in the mosque and eventually demolishing it. However, the Court dismissed the review petitions after finding no merit in the same.

Conclusion

It is said that “Faith is a matter of individual belief while value of secular Constitution lies in mutual deference”. The Supreme Court of India, in this case, tried to address the concerns of the minorities and the worries of Hindus at the same time.

It also tried to create a harmony between Hindus and Muslims in the best possible way although, some questions still remain unanswered, which should have been addressed by the court.

Author: Shekhar Kanwar from NALSAR University of Law.

Editor: Ismat Hena from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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