New Delhi: On the last day of hearing in the Ayodhya land dispute case, the Sunni Waqf Board — one of the petitioners — has sought to withdraw from the title suit, the mediation panel has informed the Supreme Court.
The move comes amid reports of a possible rift between members of the board following FIRs against its chairman ZA Faruqui. The Uttar Pradesh government has recommended an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Faruqui into alleged illegal sale and purchase of land for the board.
Faruqui was on Monday provided security on the orders of the apex court after he apprehended a threat to his life. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the communication addressed to it by a member of the mediation committee that Faruqui has informed him about the threat.
Sources aware of the development said after the FIRs, Faruqui had attempted to change his Advocate-on-Record in the Ayodhya case. He allegedly also wrote to the mediation panel, asking for a fresh round of talks, without the knowledge of his legal team.
In its proposal to the mediation panel, the board has suggested giving up its claim on the disputed site but sought that Places of Worship Act, 1991, should be made water-tight. It has asked that the government take over maintenance of around 22 mosques in Ayodhya, many of which were damaged in the riots after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
It has also asked the Supreme Court to form a committee to check the status of other religious places under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Wednesday is the last day for hearings in the title dispute after the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it looked forward to conclude the arguments before its advanced deadline of October 17. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has been hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit for 39 days and had earlier set the deadline to finish arguments on October 18. This was later brought forward to October 17, but the CJI on Tuesday indicated that it would like to conclude all arguments by Wednesday instead of Thursday.
The judgment will be reserved by the bench if the arguments conclude. The bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer will have to pronounce the ruling by November 17 as the CJI will retire on that date. If the judgment is not delivered before his retirement, the entire matter would have to be heard afresh.
The CJI has previously said the bench will have only four weeks to write the judgment and it will be a “miracle” if the court delivers the judgment in this time frame.
The court had sped up the hearing in the case that was pending for decades and conducted day-to-day hearing, including miscellaneous days reserved for other matters, to ensure that the bench arrives at a verdict.
The top court is hearing appeals against the September 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. The high court had divided the disputed 2.77 acres of land, including the spot where the Babri Masjid stood until December 6, 1992, and the area around it, equally among the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Waqf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman.
The bid to arrive at a negotiated settlement to the dispute via a mediation process failed after Ramlalla Virajman said no to further mediation. Days later, the side arguing for the mosque also turned down an invitation by the Supreme Court-appointed mediators.
With the closing in of the verdict, the Ayodhya administration has tightened curbs imposed under Section 144 till December 10.