Ayodhya Land Dispute Case: From 1949 to 2019

As the Supreme Court of India gets ready to give judgement on decades old Ayodhaya dispute case here is the timeline of important events showing how the dispute unfolded over the years.

December 1949: An idol of Lord Ram is placed inside the Babri Masjid, after which police lodges an FIR and the city magistrate seizes and locks the property.

January 1950: Gopal Singh Visharad files a civil suit in the Faizabad court demanding to unlock the Babri Masjid premises and start regular prayers.
Ramchandra Das Paramahans, the Mahant of Digambar Akhara and Nirmohi Akhara later approaches the court with the same demand.

February 1961: Uttar Pradesh’s Sunni Central Waqf Board challenges the three suits filed by the Hindus, declaring Babri Masjid as its property. Hashim Ansari and five others join the case through separate pleas.
February 1986: Faizabad District Judge Hari Shankar Pandey orders unlocking of the Babri Mosque in favour of Hindu parties, and allows worship. The Babri Masjid Action Committee was formed in the same year.

1989: All cases related to the Babri Masjid-Ramjanma-bhoomi title suit are transferred to the high court. Triloki Nath Pandey also becomes a party by claiming to be Ram Lalla’s ‘best friend’.

December 6, 1992: Babri Mosque is demolished.

December 12, 1992: The Narsimha Rao government sets up the Liberhan Commission to investigate the case.

1993: The Liberhan Commission begins its probe. CBI takes over and files a chargesheet against BJP leader LK Advani, and 19 others, who led the rath yatra to Ayodhya, and is accused of goading kar sevaks into pulling down the structure. Various writ petitions, including one by Ismail Faruqui, filed at Allahabad High Court challenging various aspects of the Act.

October 24, 1994: Supreme Court says in the historic Ismail Faruqui case that a mosque was not integral to Islam.

May 2001: The special court drops criminal conspiracy charges against L K Advani and MM Joshi.

February 2002: Tension in Ayodhya as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is adamant on Shila Pujan to construct the Ram temple.

April 2002: A three-judge bench of the court begins the Ayodhya title suit hearing.

2003: In a survey requested by the High Court, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) finds evidence of a temple under the mosque. Muslim groups dispute the findings.

September 2003: The CBI court rules that seven Sangh Parivar leaders should stand trial for inciting the Babri Masjid demolition. LK Advani, by now the deputy Prime Minster, however, is spared.

June 2009: The Liberhan Commission submits its report, holding 68 people guilty of the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid.

September 30, 2010: The three-judge bench in its historic judgment divides the disputed land in three parts—two parts to the Hindu side and one to the Muslim side

2011: All three sides — Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla Virajman and Sunni Waqf Board — appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court.

May 2011: The Supreme Court stays the High Court verdict and orders status quo at the disputed site

February 2016: BJP leader Subramanian Swamy appeals to the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing to decide the title suit.

March 21, 2017: Hearing Swamy’s petition, the three-judge bench says the parties involved should try and reach an amicable settlement out of court. The Supreme Court is ready to mediate, says the Chief Justice of India.

April 19, 2017: Supreme Court asks the CBI court to revive conspiracy charges against the accused named in FIR 198/92 and shifts their case from the Rae Bareli court to Lucknow, clubbing it with the case against accused Karsevaks, who were booked for the actual demolition of Babri Masjid
Supreme Court asks the CBI court to commence a day-to-day hearing in trial within a month of the order and wind up the case by 2019, delivering the verdict.

May 20, 2017: Special CBI court in Lucknow summons six accused including RV Vedanti, BL Sharma, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahant Dharam Das and Dr Satish Pradhan.
All the accused except Pradhan appear in court and are granted bail, with the next date of hearing set for May 25, 2017.

May 24, 2017: Satish Pradhan appears in the CBI court, Lucknow and gets bail.

May 25, 2017: Six accused, including Vedanti and five others, fail to appear in court for the framing of charges, and are asked by the CBI court to appear on May 30 beyond which no exemption will be allowed.

May 26: The Special CBI court summons six BJP leaders including LK Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Ritambhara and Vishnu Hari Dalmia, accused in the case (FIR 198/92) to appear before it for framing of charges. All six fail to appear and are directed to be present on May 30, 2017.


May 30, 2017: All 12 accused named in the FIR no 198/92 for inciting the mob and conspiring to demolish the Babri Mosque appear in the Special CBI court in Lucknow Court. Additional charges of conspiracy are framed under Section 120 B of IPC against them.

August 8, 2017: The Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board proposes in an affidavit to the Supreme Court that a new mosque be built away from the disputed site in Ayodhya. The Shia Waqf Board claimed, in media reports, that the 16th century Babri Masjid was a Shia waqf (endowment) and that the Sunni Waqf Board, which has been a party to the 70-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, were “mere interlopers” led by “hardliners, fanatics and non-believers” who do not want an amicable settlement with the Hindu sects involved,.

August 11, 2017: Supreme Court to start final hearing on December 5. The court directs the Uttar Pradesh government to translate the case documents running into more than 9,000 pages (523 documentary exhibits) within 12 weeks. The documents include scripts and records written in various languages ranging from Pali, Arabic, Persian, Gurumukhi to Urdu.

November 20, 2017: Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board files an application in the Supreme Court seeking settlement of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

December 5, 2017: The Supreme Court commences hearing in the Ayodhya dispute. After hearing arguments from the defendants and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) representing the State of Uttar Pradesh, the apex court fixes matter for further hearing on February 8, 2018.

February 8, 2018: Supreme Court starts hearing the civil appeals.

March 14, 2018: Supreme Court rejects all interim pleas, including Swamy’s, seeking to intervene as parties in the case.

April 6, 2018: Rajeev Dhavan files plea in SC to refer the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement to a larger bench.

July 6, 2018: Uttar Pradesh government tells SC some Muslim groups were trying to delay the hearing by seeking reconsideration of an observation in the 1994 verdict.

July 20, 2018: Supreme Court reserves its verdict.

September 27, 2018: Supreme Court declines to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench. Case to be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29.

October 2018: The Supreme Court decides that the land dispute case will only be listed before an “appropriate Bench” in January 2019.
In what is seen as a setback to the BJP leaders pressing for a speedy disposal of the title suit, a Bench consisting Chief Justice Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph says, “the appropriate Bench will fix the schedule with regard to the hearing of appeals in the case”.

January 4, 2019: The Supreme Court defers hearing a bunch of petitions in the Ayodhya title dispute case till January 10. “Further orders will be passed by an appropriate bench on January 10 for fixing the date of hearing the matter,” the Bench says.

January 8, 2019: The Supreme Court sets up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the land dispute case headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud.

January 10: Justice U U Lalit recuses himself prompting Supreme Court to reschedule the hearing for January 29 before a new bench.

January 25, 2019: Supreme Court reconstitutes 5-member Constitution Bench to hear the case. The new bench comprises Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.

January 27, 2019: Supreme Court cancels the January 29 hearing due to non-availability of Justice SA Bobde.

January 29, 2019: Centre moves Supreme Court seeking permission to return the 67-acre acquired land around the disputed site to original owners.

February 20, 2019: Supreme Court decides to hear the case on February 26.

February 26, 2019: Supreme Court favours mediation, fixes March 5 for order on whether to refer the matter to a court-appointed mediator.

March 6, 2019: Supreme Court reserves order on whether the land dispute can be settled through mediation.

March 8, 2019: Supreme Court refers the dispute for mediation by a panel headed by former Supreme Court judge F M I Kallifulla.

March 8, 2019- The bench on March 8 send Ayodhya land dispute case for mediation by former Supreme Court Judge Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla as Chairman, spiritual guru Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. On August 2, the mediation effort between Hindu and Muslim parties in Ayoda case fails. A constitution bench led by CJI Gogoi said the court will hear appeals on a daily basis from August 6. Daily Hearing begins from August 6


August 6: The constitution bench began hearing the cross-appeals by the Hindu and Muslim sides challenging three-way partition of disputed 2.77 acres of the disputed Ayodhya land among Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and Sunni Waqf Board.

August 7: Justice Bobde asks, “Whether Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem… Has such a question ever arisen in any court,” while Ram Lalla’s lawyer says that unshakable faith is proof of Lord Ram’s birthplace.

August 8: The SC asks whether a birthplace can be considered as ‘juristic person’.

August 13: The SC says it is no hurry to finish the hearing on Ayodhya land case.

August 14: The top court poses queries to Hindu parties’ counsel.

August 16: The apex court asks Hindu parties for proof that Babri Masjid was built over a temple.

August 20: The Supreme Court said that an inscription on mosque slab spoke of Vishnu temple.

August 21: SC asks lawyers to provide evidence to claim temple at the site.

August 22: Gopal Singh Visharad, an appellant tells the court that Hindus have an unfettered right to worship at the site that is believed to be the birthplace of Ram.

August 23: SC tells UP to respond on Ayodhya case judge’s protection plea while Nirmohi Akhara quizzed on rights to Ayodhya site.

August 27: The Akhara group objects to a separate lawsuit filed by Ayodhya deity.

August 28: The top court said that it may be possible that Babur may not have built Babri Masjid.

August 30: The Hindu Mahasabha argued that emperor Babur was an invader and that law ‘institutionalise’ the rights of an invader. Shia Waqf Board, on the other hand, questioned the claim of Sunni section over the disputed land.

September 3: Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan claimed that the installation of idols inside Babri Masjid on the intervening night of December 22-23 in 1949 led the escalation of heightened tensions and legal battle. Meanwhile, the SC issued a notice to a man from Chennai for intimidating Rajiv Dhawan.

September 4: Rajeev Dhawan told the SC that both Muslims and Hindus alike used to worship in mosque-temple while the top court looked into litigant complaint of intimidation.

September 14: SC says that a devotee’s faith cannot be questioned.

September 16: A mediation panel tells the Supreme Court that Ayodhya parties want the talks to resume.

September 17: Rajeev Dhawan said that Hindu parties’ arguments were complete based on theology and not legality or concrete proof.

September 18: Supreme Court gives jurisdiction to the mediation committee to resume talks while Ram Chabutra becomes a focal point in Ayodhya hearing.

September 19: Constitution bench comprising CJI Rajan Gogoi, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer resumes the hearing. The SC sets October 18 as the deadline for completing Ayoda case hearing. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu professor who wrote a threatening letter to Rajeev Dhavan apologised and the apex court closes contempt case.

September 22: A special CBI court issued summons to former UP CM and BJP leader Kalyan Singh, directing him to appear before it on September 27 in connection with Babri Masjid’s demolition case for conspiring to demolish the mosque.

September 24: The SC says the faith in Hindus will be hard to rebut

September 25: In a dramatic move, Muslim side accepts Ayodhya as Lord Ram’s birth place

September 25: The Muslim parties said that it cannot argue on Archeological Study of India (ASI) report on excavations at Babji Masjid site in 2003 claiming it is filled with “palpable and inherent” infirmities and inconsistencies..

September 26: SC raises doubts on ASI findings.

September 27: ASI report not an ordinary opinion, inferences were drawn by experts, tells the SC.

October 3: Hindu side says the right to worship is a civil right

October 13: All India Muslim Law Board (AIMPLB) said it cannot give up claim to Ayodhya site.

October 14, 2019: Ahead of the Babri Masjid verdict, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Aditynath imposes section 144 in Ayodhya till December 10.
October 15, 2019: CJI says will try and conclude hearing by October 16.
October 16, 2019: “Enough is enough”, says CJI as Ayodhya hearings to conclude by 5pm.

Background:

• The Ram Janmabhoomi -Babri Masjid dispute is a decades-old tussle between Hindus and Muslims with the former claiming that is the birthplace of Lord Rama where a mosque was built in 1528–29 CE (935 AH) by Mir Baqi.
• Since the mosque was built on orders of the Mughal Emperor Babur, it was named Babri Masjid.
• The Babri mosque was demolished by Hindu Karsevaks on December 6, 1992 in Ayodhya. The country witnessed massive riots following the riots that killed over 2,000 people.
• After 25 odd years, the final verdict is to be announced on October 18. Here’s a brief timeline of the events.