Ayodhya Verdict: Why Supreme Court Denied Nirmohi Akhara's Claim to 2.77 Acre of Disputed Site
The Nirmohi Akhara had made a claim to the entire disputed land stating that they were the original ‘pujaris’ who worshiped Lord Ram at the temple at his birthplace.
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18
New Delhi: The Supreme Court, in its order on Ayodhya title dispute, said the Nirmohi Akhara is not a shebait or devotee of the deity of Lord Ram and instead handed over the entire 2.77 acre of disputed area to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.
The Nirmohi Akhara, which was awarded one-third of the disputed land by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, had also made a claim to the entire disputed land stating that they were the original ‘pujaris’ who worshiped Lord Ram at the temple at his birthplace.
A ‘shebait’ is a person who is appointed by temple authorities to serve the deity, maintain the property and manage it. The office of ‘shebait’ comes with rights.
The five-judge Supreme Court bench, in its verdict, said a ‘pujari’ who conducts worship at a temple is not elevated to the status of a ‘shebait’.
"A pujari gains no independent right despite having conducted the ceremonies for a long period of time. Thus, the mere presence of pujaris does not vest in them any right to be shebaits."
The Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, ruled that "at its highest, these exhibits show that the Nirmohis were present in and around the disputed structure and assisted the pilgrims. It does not, however, evidence any management over the idols or the disputed site itself."
The court said the Nirmohi Akhara, to prove its claim of being a shebait, had to prove it was in exclusive possession of the trust property and exercised complete control over the right of management of the properties.
"Though it cannot and has not been denied in the present proceedings that Nirmohi Akhara existed at the disputed site, the claim of Nirmohi Akhara, taken at the highest is that of an intermittent exercise of certain management rights. Their rights were peripheral, usually involving the assistance of pilgrims and were constantly contested," the court said.
It went on to state that "a stray or intermittent exercise of management rights does not confer upon a claimant the position in law of a de facto shebait. It cannot be said that the acts of Nirmohi Akhara satisfy the legal standard of management and charge that is exclusive, uninterrupted and continuous over a sufficient period of time. Despite their undisputed presence at the disputed site, for the reasons outlined above, Nirmohi Akhara is not a shebait.”
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