New Delhi: The Supreme Court today allowed the repairing of covers and providing other facilities at makeshift Ram Lalla Temple at the disputed site in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya town.
The apex court said the exercise should be undertaken by the District Collector of Faizabad under the supervision of two independent observers.
Earlier, The Supreme Court had asked the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to consider providing better amenities feasible in the present scenario to pilgrims at 'Ram Janma Bhoomi' site near the disputed structure at Ayodhya.
"Let us do something. If possible, do something for the upkeep of the place and provide facilites for visitors," a bench of Justices AR Dave and Kurian Joseph had said on Friday.
“We direct that the authorised person/Commissioner Faizabad is permitted to replace the old and worn out tarpaulin sheet, jute matting, bamboo, polythene sheet and ropes over the makeshift structure by new ones of the same size and quality and exactly in the same manner as they were previously placed,” a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.
The process of replacement of the old cover by the new one will be undertaken and completed under the supervision of the two observers who have been visiting the site, the bench, also comprising Justices V R Gopala Gowda and R Banumathi, said.
Meanwhile, the court has directed its Registry to provide copies of CDs, containing digitised records relating to the case, to parties and rejected the submissions that parties be allowed to inspect the records.
“The proper course would be to direct parties to appear before the Registrar and sort this out. It may be a long rope, but one must proceed in a methodical manner,” it said. Ruling out possibility of an out-of-turn hearing of the batch of appeals, the bench said, “The pleadings should be complete and the appeals must be ripe for hearing.”
At the outset, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for one of the parties, supported the submission that old and worn out tarpaulin sheets be allowed to be replaced, contending it has been done earlier in pursuance of the apex court's order.
“You like it or not, there is a makeshift temple and it has to be covered,” he said, adding the issue of replacing the worn out covers be treated as a matter “arising out of the observers' report”.
Earlier, the replacement of the covers had been ordered on an application filed by District Magistrate of Faizabad.
The bench did not accept the plea that the court should also depend on “digital records” as the original ones are voluminous.
“We do not know whether judges handling the case would be comfortable. Do not depend on digital records. Better course would be that you all sit with the Registrar and sort it,” he said.
During the hearing, it was pointed out that T M Khan, one of the two independent observers, has completed his five year tenure and the issue of his replacement has to be addressed. The court granted six weeks time to the Centre to take a decision on this issue.
On the the issue of maintaining the “status quo” at the site, the bench today also permitted that the polythene sheet at the site be covered with six inches of soil. Earlier, the apex court had admitted several petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict of three-way division of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya on September 30, 2010.
Earlier also, the court had asked the Centre to file its response to the application filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking facilities for the pilgrims.
Swamy had submitted that pilgrims, who are devotees of Lord Rama, are deprived of even basic facilities like drinking water and toilets and face difficulty due to inadequate arrangements made by both the Centre and U P government.
Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh said that the Centre would consider the plea made by Swamy.
Swamy had said the status quo order passed by the apex court in 1996 was limited to prohibit building of any structure at the disputed site.
In his application, he had sought an order from the apex court to "ameliorate the lot of millions of Hindu pilgrims who make the pilgrimage to the site of the 'Ram Janma Bhoomi' at Ayodhya, to have a 'darshan' and perform 'pooja'."