Ayodhya Case: The Five Suits

Murali Krishnan November 9 2019

The hearing in the Ayodhya case concluded in the Supreme Court on October 16. The nation awaits with bated breath even as news comes in that the verdict will be pronounced tomorrow.

How did the Ayodhya matter find its way to the Supreme Court?

There were a batch of appeals assailing the verdict of the Allahabad High Court of 2010. The verdict of the High Court stemmed from five civil suits filed by various parties staking various claims ranging from the right to worship at the disputed site to right to the title of the disputed place.

The first of the five suits was filed in 1950 and the last in 1989. The first four suits were initially filed before the Civil Judge, Faizabad.

By order dated January 6, 1964 passed by the Civil Judge, Faizabad, the four suits had already been consolidated and Regular Suit No.12 of 1961 (Suit No.4) had been made the leading case, on the agreement of all the parties.

After an increase in the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Munsif, the suits were transferred to the Court of Munsif Sadar, Faizabad. The transfer/withdrawal application was registered as Civil Miscellaneous Case No.29 of 1987.

In 1987, the State of Uttar Pradesh filed an application in the Allahabad High Court under Section 24 of Code of Civil Procedure seeking withdrawal of the four suits from the Court of Munsif Sadar and transfer of the same to Allahabad High Court.

Meanwhile, Suit No. 5 had been filed before the Civil Judge, Faizabad on July 1, 1989 and an application for transfer/withdrawal of the said suit by its plaintiffs had also been filed in the High Court in the form of Civil Miscellaneous Case No.11 of 1989.

Both the transfer applications/miscellaneous cases were disposed on July 10, 1989. The suits were transferred and directed to be heard by a Full Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

So, what were the five suits in Ayodhya? Who filed them and what were their claims?

Suit No. 1

The first suit in the Ayodhya matter, Other Original Suit (OOS) No. 1 of 1989, Regular Suit No. 2 of 1950, was instituted on January 16, 1950 by one Gopal Singh Visharad.

The relief claimed by Visharad was for a declaration entitling him to worship and have darshan of Sri Bhagwan Ram Chandra as per the religion and customs without hindrance at the place of Janam Bhumi by going near the idols.

In his plaint, Visharad had claimed that he was worshipping the idol of Bhagwan Sri Ram Chandra Ji and Charan Paduka (foot impression) at the Janam Bhumi. As per the plaint, the boundaries indicated that in the East, there was Bhandar and Chabootara, in the North, Sita Rasoi and Parti towards the West and the South.

Visharad had stated that due to illness, he was not able to go to the disputed place, building/site for worship for several days. Finally, when he went there for darshan on January 14, 1950, defendant No.6, i.e. State of Uttar Pradesh and its employees prevented him from going inside where idols of Sri Ram Chandra and others were placed. He claimed that it was done at the undue insistence of defendants 1 to 5 (all Muslim residents of Ayodhya, who had subsequently died and were not substituted).

It was also mentioned in the plaint that the State and its employees, i.e. respondents No.7 to 9, Deputy Commissioner, Faizabad, Additional City Magistrate, Faizabad and Ram Kripal Singh, SP Faizabad were unduly pressurising the Hindu public for removal of the idols from the existing place.

Visharad had, therefore, prayed for the relief that he be allowed to worship the idols at the Janam Bhoomi without the State and other defendants interfering with the said right.

A prohibitory injunction was also sought against defendants No.6 to 10 (defendant No.10, Sunni Central Waqf Board of UP was added in 1989). The injunction sought was that defendant Nos. 6 to 10 should not remove the idols of Bhagwan Ram Chandra, that they should also not close the way leading to the idols, and that they should not interfere in worship and darshan in any manner.

Nirmohi Akhara was added as defendant no. 11 in 1990.

Later, GS Visharad died and was substituted by his son Rajendra Singh through an order dated February 22, 1986. He  maintained the same prayer that was made by his father.

Suit No. 2

This suit was withdrawn in the year 1990.

This suit being Regular Suit No. 25 of 1950 (OOS No.2 of 1989) was filed by Paramhans Ramchandra Das against Zahoor Ahmad and seven others. The suit was filed on December 5, 1950.

The first five defendants, Muslim residents of Ayodhya, were also defendants No.1 to 5 in Suit No. 1. Defendant No. 6 was the State of Uttar Pradesh and defendant No.7 was Deputy Commissioner, Faizabad. Sunni Central Board of Waqfs was added as defendant No.8 in 1989.

The plaint was almost a verbatim reproduction of the plaint in Suit No.1. However, in Suit No. 2, it was mentioned that notice under Section 80, Code of Civil Procedure had been given to defendants No. 6 & 7 on February 7, 1950.

The valuation, as well as the reliefs claimed, were identical to those in Suit no. 1.

An application to get the said suit dismissed as withdrawn was filed by the plaintiff on August 23, 1990, which was allowed on September 18, 1990. It appears that Suit No.2 was filed only for the reason that before filing Suit No.1, notice under Section 80, CPC had not been given.

Suit No. 3

OOS No.3 of 1989, Regular Suit No.26 of 1959, referred to as Suit No.3, was filed by Nirmohi Akhara through its mahant. After the death of original mahant, his chela was substituted. The suit was instituted on December 17, 1959.

Defendant No. 1 in the suit was initially Babu Priya Datt Ram, who was appointed as receiver in proceedings under Section 145, CrPC. Thereafter, the new receiver Sri Jamuna Prasad, was substituted in his place by order of the court passed in October 1989. Defendants No.2 to 5 were State of Uttar Pradesh, Deputy Commissioner Faizabad, City Magistrate and SP, Faizabad.

The case of plaintiff Nirmohi Akhara was that for a very long time in Ayodhya, an ancient math and akhara of Ramanandi Varagis called Nirmohis existed.

It was a religious establishment of a public character. It was further pleaded that Janma Asthan, now commonly known as Janam Bhumi, the birthplace of Lord Ram Chandra at the time of filing of the suit, had always belonged to Nirmohi Akhara who through its mahant and Sarbrahkar had always been managing and receiving offerings made there in the form of money etc. It was also claimed in para-3 of the plaint that the Janam Bhumi was of ancient antiquity.

A map of the property in dispute was also attached along with the plaint and the entire premises was claimed to be the temple.

In Para-4, it was stated that Nirmohi Akhara possessed the temple and only Hindus were allowed to enter and worship there. It was stated that no Muslim could or ever did enter the temple building, i.e. the entire disputed structure. It was further stated that in any case, since 1934, no Muslim ever entered the premises.

After the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992, the plaint was amended. It was asserted that the main temple and other temples of the Nirmohi Akhara were also demolished by some miscreants, who had no religion, caste or creed. It was also claimed in para 4-A that Nirmohi Akhara was the Panchayati Math of Ramanandi Sect of Vairagies, and as such was a religious denomination.

The attachment under Section 145, CrPC was stated to be illegal and having been made on the wrong persuasion of defendant No.6 to 8, who claimed to represent the Muslim community. It was stated that due to wrongful attachment, plaintiffs had wrongfully been deprived of management and charge of the temple and had been waiting for dropping of the proceedings under Section 145 of CrPC. But the same were being unduly prolonged and as no immediate termination of proceedings under Section 145 of CrPC was in sight, hence the suit had become inevitable.

The prayer in the suit was that a decree be passed for the removal of the defendant No.1 (receiver) from the management and charge of the temple of Janma Bhoomi and deliver the same to the plaintiff through its mahant.

The cause of action was stated to have arisen on January 05, 1950, when defendant No.4, City Magistrate, Faizabad, illegally took over the management and charge of the temple along with the articles (which were taken into the custody at the time of attachment) and entrusted the same to the receiver defendant No. 1.

Suit No. 4

OOS No .4 of 1989, Regular Suit No.12 of 1961, which is referred to as Suit No.4, was filed by Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, Uttar Pradesh and nine individual Muslims of Ayodhya, most of whom subsequently passed away.  Some of them were substituted, while some were not.

The suit was stated to be filed under Order 1 Rule 8 CPC against the Hindu public and for the benefit of entire Muslim community along with an application for permission under Order 1 Rule 8 CPC.

In the plaint, it was stated that in Ayodhya, there existed an ancient historic Mosque commonly known as Babri Masjid built by Mughal Emperor Babur more than 400 years ago.

The Mosque was built after Babur's conquest of India and occupation of the territories, including the town of Ayodhya.

Along with the plaint, a map was attached. According to the Para-2 of the plaint, the main construction of the Mosque was shown by letters A, B, C, D. in the said sketch map.

The map was divided by dotted lines into two parts. The eastern part was about one-third of the western part. Towards south-east of the eastern part, a portion was demarcated, dimensions of which were given as 17' X 21' and it was denoted by the words Chabutra Masjid.

On all the four sides of the mosque, a graveyard was shown. It was mentioned that land adjoining the mosque on all the four sides was an ancient graveyard of Muslims. It had graves of Muslims who had lost their lives in the battle between Emperor Babur and the previous ruler of Ayodhya.

It was the contention of the plaintiffs that the Mosque had been used by Muslims for offering prayers since its construction and that the Mosque and graveyard vested in Almighty.

It was also stated that a grant was given for the upkeep and maintenance of the Mosque. In the year 1864, the British converted the cash grant into a grant of revenue-free land situated in village Sholapur and Bahoranpur, in the vicinity of Ayodhya.

In para-5, it was mentioned that “in the mosque but outside the main building of the mosque, there was Chabootara 17’ x 21’ on which there was a small wooden structure in the form of a tent, which is still there.”

In 1885, one Mahant Raghubar Dass, alleging to be mahant of Janam Asthan, instituted a suit (OS No.61/280 of 1885) against the Secretary of State for India in Council and Mohammad Asghar, Mutwalli of Babri Mosque, for permission to build a temple on the Chabutara.

The suit was dismissed and the appeal was also dismissed by the District Judge. In para-6 of the plaint, it was stated that as per the plaint in the suit of 1885, the entire building, with the exception of the Chabutara, was admitted to be a mosque and was shown as such.

Thereafter, through amendment, paras No.6-A to 6- F were added in the plaint. The amendment application was allowed in 1962. In the said paras, details of the suit of 1885 and the interpretation of the judgment of the said suit according to the plaintiff was given.

It was further stated that the suit of 1885 was filed on behalf of the plaintiff mahant, Janam Asthan, and on behalf of a whole body of persons interested in the same.

Thereafter, in para-8 of the plaint, it was stated that in 1934, during a communal riot in Ayodhya, portions of the Babri Mosque were damaged. However, the damaged portions were rebuilt and reconditioned at the cost of the government through a Muslim Thekedar.

The Commissioner of Waqfs made a detailed inquiry under UP Muslim Waqfs Act, 1936 and held that the Babri Masjid was built by Emperor Babur and hence was a public waqf. It was also stated that no suit challenging the said report was filed by the Hindus.

It was further contended that Muslims used to recite prayers in the Mosque till December 23, 1949, when a large crowd of Hindus entered the mosque and desecrated it by placing idols inside the mosque. The cause of action was said to have accrued on that date.

Para-11 (a), which was added through amendment allowed on November 29, 1963, stated the following:

“11(a) That assuming, though not admitting, that at one time there existed a Hindu temple as alleged by the defendants representatives of the Hindus on the site of which of which emperor Babar built the mosque, some 433 years ago, the Muslims, by virtue of their long exclusive and continuous possession beginning from the time the mosque was built and continuing right upto the time some mischievous persons entered the mosque and desecrated the mosque as alleged in the preceding paragraphs of the plaint, the Muslims perfected their title by adverse possession and the right, title or interest of the temple and of the Hindu public if any extinguished.”

In Para-13 of the plaint, it was stated that since Priya Datt Ram was acting as the receiver of the property in dispute, Muslims were deprived of their right to offer prayers in the Mosque.

The plaint adverted to Suit No.1, in which a temporary injunction order had been passed restraining the defendants of the said suit (i.e. Muslims) from removing the idols from the Mosque in dispute and from interfering in puja etc. of the Hindus. As a result of the same, Hindus were permitted to perform puja of the idols placed by them in the Mosque, but the Muslims were not allowed to even enter the Mosque.

In Para-20, it was mentioned that the building in the suit was in the possession of receiver and would be released in favour of the plaintiffs in case their suit succeeded. If for any reason, in the opinion of the Court, recovery for possession was the proper relief to be claimed, the plaintiffs in the alternative prayed for recovery of possession.

After the demolition of the disputed building on December 6, 1992, various paragraphs were added in the plaint through amendment applications which were allowed in 1995. It was stated through the amendment that in violation of the order of the Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court, Babri Masjid was demolished and thereafter an illegal structure was created on December 7, 1992.

However, under Muslim Law, a Mosque is a place where prayers are offered publicly and it does not require any structure, and even an open space could be a Mosque. Hence, it was the case of the plaintiffs that even after demolition, the land continued to be a Mosque.

Further, though the cause of action accrued in 1949 when the idols were placed, it was also their contention that the injuries caused were continuing injuries and cause of action was renewed de die in diem (from day to day).

The relief claimed in the suit was for a declaration to the effect that the property indicated by letters A, B, C, D in the sketch map attached to the plaint is a public mosque commonly known as Babri Masjid. The next prayer was that if in the opinion of the Court, delivery of possession is deemed to be the proper remedy, a decree for delivery of the possession of the mosque in the suit by removal of the idols etc. be passed in plaintiff’s favour against the defendants.

One more prayer was added through an amendment in 1995 to the effect that the statutory receiver be commanded to hand over the property in dispute by removing the unauthorised construction erected at the disputed site.

Suit No.5

This suit was filed on July 1, 1989 by Bhagwan Sri Ram Birajman at Sri Ram Janam Bhoomi Ayodhya (Plaintiff No. 1), Asthan Sri Ram Janam Bhoomi, Ayodhya (Plaintiff No. 2) and Senior Advocate and retired High Court judge Deoki Nandan Agarwala (Plaintiff No. 3).

Both plaintiffs No. 1 and 2 are juridical persons and plaintiff No.3 is a Vaishnava Hindu who sought to represent the Deity and the Asthan as a next friend.

Suit No. 5 was filed with an application by plaintiff No.3 to permit him to sue on behalf of Plaintiff Nos.1 & 2 as their next friend. On the same date, the application was allowed and it was also directed that until some other person filed any objection, Plaintiff No.3 would be permitted to conduct the suit as next friend of Plaintiff Nos.1 & 2. An application to recall the said order was rejected by the Allahabad High Court on April 20, 1992.

Plaintiff Nos.1 & 2 were stated to be represented by next friend Deoki Nandan Agarwala, plaintiff No.3. Deoki Nandan Agarwala died and was substituted by TP Verma. Thereafter, Verma expressed his inability to continue to act as next friend of plaintiffs No.1 & 2 due to his ill health and age. Hence, under orders of Supreme Court, Triloki Nath Pandey was appointed as next friend of plaintiffs No.1 and 2 by the Allahabad Court.

It was the case of the plaintiffs that even after 25 years having passed since the framing of the issues in the matter, the hearing in the four previous suits had not commenced.

It was expected that the suits would be decided earlier and darshan and puja would be permitted from near the deities and not from behind the barrier.

It was submitted that due to the prolonged delay in hearing the suits, the deities and their devotees are extremely unhappy and the devotees of the deities are desirous of having a new temple constructed.

Moreover, it was the contention of the plaintiffs that earlier suits were inadequate as neither the presiding deity nor the Asthans, i.e. plaintiffs No. 1 and 2 were impleaded in the earlier suits. It was also stated that events that have occurred during the last four decades and many material facts and points of law require to be pleaded from the viewpoint of the deities.

A trust was created and registered on December 8, 1985. Jagadaguru Ramanandacharya Swami Shivaramacharya was declared as the first trustee for life and other trustees were also appointed including Paramhans Ram Chandra Das and Plaintiff No.3.

It is in this suit that the submission of the birthplace itself being a deity has been made. The place itself being the birthplace of Lord Ram is the object of worship as deity, the plaint states.

Various examples of similar such places were given. Kedarnath has no idol and an undulating surface of stone is worshipped as deity. Vishnupad Temple at Gaya was given as another example, which does not contain any idol but is worshipped as a deity since the said place is believed to have born the footprints of Bhagwan Vishnu.

Likewise, Sri Ram Janam Bhoomi at Ayodhya is worshipped as a deity, which is a juridical person and the actual performance of puja of such an immovable deity by its devotees is not essential for its existence as a deity, the plaintiffs had contended.

Moreover, it was also stated that there was an ancient temple of Maharaja Vikramditya’s time at Sri Ram Janam Bhoomi. It was destroyed partly by Mir Baqi, a commander of Emperor Babur and an attempt was made to raise a mosque there. For the construction of the mosque, almost all materials used were of the temple including its Kasauti pillars with figures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses carved on them. It was also stated that many battles were fought by the Hindus there, the last one of which occurred in 1855.

Quoting Neville’s Faizabad Gazetteer of 1928, it was stated that the open fight of 1855 happened in respect of Hanumaan Garhi, which is at a distance of less than a kilometer from the premises in dispute.

It was also their contention that the structure like the disputed one could not have been a mosque even according to the Muslim Law. No prayers were ever offered by the Muslims in the building in dispute. After the riot of 1934, when substantial parts of the domes of the building were destroyed and thereafter rebuilt by the government, no one dared to offer Namaz in the disputed structure.

The prayer in the suit was for a decree of declaration to the effect that the entire premises of Sri Ram Janama Bhoomi at Ayodhya as described and delineated in Annexures I, II and III belong to the deities. Hence, a perpetual injunction was sought against the defendants to prohibit them from interfering with, or raising any objection to or placing any obstruction in the construction of a new temple at Sri Ram Janama Bhoomi Ayodhya, after demolishing and removing the existing buildings and structures etc.

The cause of action for the suit, it was claimed, had been accruing from day to day, particularly after plans of the temple reconstruction were sought to be obstructed by violent action from the side of certain Muslim communalists.