The 24-year-old judgement by Supreme Court in Ismail Faruqi vs Union of India has become the crucial clog in the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjod dispute. Responding to a plea for challenging the 1994 judgement, the Supreme Court is set to decide today - if the matter should be referred to a seven-judge Constitutional bench for review.
The verdict, which was reserved on July 20, is expected today.
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Before the crucial verdict, let's have a look at the original judgement in the Ismail Faruqi case and how it can affect Ayodhya dispute:
1994 Ismail Faruqui verdict
In Dr M Ismail Faruqui vs Union of India, the Supreme Court considered the question of acquisition of religious place by the State. A temple, church or a mosque, etc, are essentially immovable properties and subject to protection under Article 25 and 26.
Every immovable property is liable to be acquired.
While offer of prayer or worship is a religious practice, its offering at every location where such prayers can be offered would not be a essential or integral part of such religious practice unless the place has a particular significance for that religion so as to form an essential or integral part thereof.
Which means that the SC adjudged that offering namaz at mosque was not integral to Islam, unless that mosque had any particular significance in Islam.
Plea challenging the judgement
The Muslim litigants in the Ayodhya dispute case filed for a review of the 1994 judgement after the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court's 2010 verdict ordering that the disputed site be divided into three parts - one for deity (Ramlala Virajmaan), another for Nirmohi Akhara -- a Hindu sect - and third to the original litigant in the case for the Muslims.
When the matter reached Supreme Court, the Muslim litigants demanded that the case should be heard by a larger bench of seven judges as it relates a land belonging to a mosque and thus has implications on the freedom of religion, a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. Currently the case is before three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
The lawyers representing the Hindus contested the demand referring to the Ismail Faruqui judgment of the Supreme Court. They said that the matter was long settled. Mosque doesn't constitute an essential part of Islam, they said, hence a ruling on title dispute doesn't infringe upon the right to freedom of religion.
The Muslim side then requested the Supreme Court to revisit the 1994 Ismail Faruqui judgment saying that mosque could not be seen separate from Islam.
The Uttar Pradesh government, which is not a party in the title suit, had questioned the Muslim litigants in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Majid title suit case for making "belated efforts" seeking a relook at the 1994 Ismail Farooqui judgment that had said that mosques were not an integral part of religious practice of offering prayers.
The state government had said that the Muslim parties did not question the legality of the 1994 judgement till the appeal against 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment on the ownership of the disputed land was taken up for hearing by the top court.
During the proceedings, the court was told that the birthplace of Lord Ram cannot be shifted to another site, while a mosque with no particular religious significance to the Muslims can be shifted as that will "not affect the right to practice religion by offering 'namaz' in other mosques".
To go to pilgrimage is a practice of religious faith both for the Muslims and the Hindus as well, but for the Muslims, "Mecca and Medina alone are places of particular significance" as pilgrimage centres, but for them such was not the case with Ayodhya/Babri Masjid.
Likely outcomes of today's SC verdict and its impact on Ayodhya dispute
If the Supreme Court bench of the three judges agrees to revisit the Ismail Faruqui judgment, a bigger seven-judge bench would be constituted. That bench would first settle the question whether mosque constitutes an essential part of Islam or not.
The appeal against the Allahabad High Court judgment on the Ayodhya title suit could only be heard after the seven-judge bench settles the mosque question.
This also means that the Ram Temple-Babri Masjid issue will most likely remain unresolved till 2019 Lok Sabha Election and could be used by either side to gain political mileage.