Track changes on Ayodhya dispute

[dropcap]U[/dropcap]P chief minister Yogi Adityanath expressing discomfort over the delay in resolving the Ramjanambhoomi dispute, saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is understandable. While he was not overly provocative when he advised the mahants to be patient on the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, the sense of pain in his voice was discernible. The BJP and Sangh Parivar have expressed their frustration at the Supreme Court decision to defer the case until January 2019, dashing hopes of an early resolution of the issue, which at one stage appeared possible before the Lok Sabha elections. An early start of Ram Mandir construction would have been a big boost to the prospects of BJP.

There is a rising chorus from among the Hindutva elements for adopting the ordinance route to overcome the delay, but with the issue pending before the court, such a course of action is fraught with serious risks and could invite legal as well as political challenges. It will help appease the hardcore elements, but could lead to new tensions between the two communities and could wreck the process of reconciliation that was tending to gain traction in view of the emerging scenario in the context of court observations as well as a sense of realism dawning on the aggrieved parties on the inevitability of a temple coming up at the disputed site. There have even been suggestions of a give and take approach, under which the mosque could be built at an alternative sight and the claimants giving up their right voluntarily. Forcing the issue through a law would negate all that.

When the Supreme Court bench headed by the then Chief Justice Dipak Misra decided in September by a 2-1 split verdict that there was no need to revisit the 1994 decision by a five-member bench that mosque was not integral to the practice of Islam in the sense that namaz can be offered anywhere, it was thought that there could be an early resolution of the dispute. The court also stripped down the issue to a title dispute after disposing off all other non-core questions. But the decision by new Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to postpone the hearing to January as per normal routine virtually rules out any urgency.

There is clearly a difference in approach between the two chief justices on the issue. Justice Misra had earlier disallowed a plea by Kapil Sibal, counsel for Sunni Waqf Board, to delay consideration of the case until after the Lok Sabha elections and even pulled him up for raising such an unrelated demand, which ultimately led to the Waqf Board disowning his stand. Now, with the new chief justice deciding that the matter be taken up only routinely, Kapil Sibal’s wish is as good as fulfilled.