New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday termed as "strange" the Allahabad High Court's verdict of three-way division of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, and stayed its operation. 

While staying the September 30 order of the High Court, a Bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice R M Lodha observed, "A new dimension was given by the High Court as the decree of partition was not sought by the parties. It was not prayed by anyone. It has to be stayed. It's a strange order."

It expressed surprise over how the High Court could pass such an order when it was not prayed by anyone.

While staying the HC order, the bench said, "How can a decree of partition be passed when none of the parties had prayed for it. Court has done something on its own. It's strange. Such kind of decrees cannot be allowed to be in operation."

"It is a difficult situation now. The position is that it (the High Court verdict) has created litany of litigation," the bench observed.

While ordering status quo at the site, which means that prayers at Ram Lala's make-shift temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya would be going on as usual, the Court restrained any kind of religious activity on the adjacent 67 acre land, which had been taken over by the Centre.

All the parties to the suit expressed satisfaction over the Supreme Court order.

Counsel for various parties, including Lord Rama Lalla Virajman, Hindu Maha Sabha and Sunni Waqf Board, expressed satisfaction over the Apex Court's interim order saying that none of the parties had sought division of the 2.77 acre land.

Sunni Waqf Board counsel Zafaryab Jilani said, "We are satisfied with today's order of the Supreme Court...This will help in maintaining peaceful position in the country."

The High Court had directed that the controversial land of 2.77 acres at Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid be divided equally among Hindus, Muslims and Nirmohi Akhara, the parties to the suit.

At the start of the proceedings, the bench queried whether any of the parties was in favour of the High Court's verdict but none of them supported the judgement. "At least there is unanimity on it," the bench remarked.

Although the appeals filed by various Hindu and Muslim religious organisations pertained to only 2.77 acre of disputed land, the apex court bench, however, ordered status quo on the 67 acre of land adjacent to the disputed site.

After the demolition of the masjid on December 6, 1992, the demonstrators created a makeshift temple. On January 7, 1993, the Congress government enacted the Ayodhya Act 1993 which preserved the status quo of the destroyed mosque and limited prayer on the disputed site.

The bench was hearing a batch of appeals filed by Nirmohi Akhara, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Jamait Ulama-I-Hind and Sunni Central Wakf Board, besides the one filed on behalf of Bhagwan Ram Virajman.

The Wakf Board and Jamait Ulama-I-Hind have submitted that the high court's verdict should be quashed as it was based on faith and not on evidence. They have contended that the court has committed an error by holding that the demolished Babri mosque stood at Lord Ram's birth place.

They have contended that claims of Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara over the disputed site were mutually exclusive and could not be shared.

"It was nobody's case in the high court that the Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara were in joint possession of the disputed premises. The claims of the three sets of plaintiffs were mutually exclusive in the sense each set of the plaintiffs claimed the entire property as its own and no one sought a decree for partition of the property," the appeals have said.

The Hindu Mahasabha, on the other hand, has sought only partial annulment of the majority verdict of the High Court, which ruled handing over one third of the disputed site to Muslims.

It has sought the Apex Court's endorsement of the September 30 minority verdict by Justice Dharam Veer Sharma who favoured handing over of the entire land to the Hindus.

"The judgement dated September 30, 2010 by Justice S U Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal should be set aside to the extent that one third of the property in dispute has been declared in favour of Muslims and to allot share to them in the decree," the Hindu Mahasabha has said in its petition.

It has appealed to the apex court "to maintain the judgement passed by Justice Dharam Veer Sharma" as the effective verdict.

A three-judge bench of the High Court's Lucknow bench had passed three separate judgements on September 30 with the majority verdict holding that the area covered by the central dome of the three-domed structure, where the idol of Lord Rama is situated, belongs to Hindus.

While justices Khan and Agarwal were of the view that the entire disputed land should be divided into three parts-one part each to Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the parties representing 'Ram Lalla Virajman', Justice Sharma had held that the entire disputed area belongs to Hindus.

Earlier, Delhi MLA Shoaib Iqbal had also filed the appeal in the Supreme Court which refused to entertain it, saying the petition "is misconceived. Hence dismissed."

All parties satisfied with SC order

Various parties to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit expressed satisfaction over the Supreme Court order staying the Allahabad High Court direction for tripartite division of the disputed land.

The counsel for various parties, including Lord Rama Lalla Virajman, Hindu Maha Sabha and Sunni Waqf Board, expressed satisfaction over the Apex Court's interim order saying that none of the parties had sought division of the 2.77 acre land.

"There will be no change of situation at ground zero (the make-shift temple of Ram Lalla). The pooja will continue as per the January 7, 1993 order," senior advocate Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is representing Ram Lalla Virajman, told reporters in Apex Court premises after the hearing on the Ayodhya dispute.

Sunni Waqf Board counsel Zafaryab Jilani said, "We are satisfied with today's order of the Supreme Court...This will help in maintaining peaceful position in the country."

"Everybody had claimed for exclusive rights, so Supreme Court is completely justified in staying the high court judgement," he said, adding, "Sunni Waqf board will ask the court to expedite its hearing in the case."

Expressing satisfaction, counsel representing Hindu Maha Sabha said, "Nobody prayed for it (partition of land into three parts). Everybody wanted full land. Our stand continues that entire Janmabhoomi premises belongs to the Hindu Maha Sabha."

Ranjeet Laal Varma, the counsel for Nirmohi Akhara, said they were in favour of an amicable settlement.

"Any decision or any step in this matter will have a long lasting effect on society. So we are ready to solve this dispute by mutual understanding. In the law we have rights and if we reach any compromise we can present our settlement in the court," he said

Mahant Bhaskar Das, the chief priest of Nirmohi Akhara, expressed happiness over the Supreme Court's order "We never wanted the land to be split into pieces. The doors to peaceful negotiations are open," he said in Ayodhya.
Triloki Nath Pandey, another litigant, expressed satisfaction over the order decision. "I am always ready for talks, we can go for peaceful negotiations and out of court settlement, I will welcome the parties who will come to me for the talks to over the Ayodhya dispute," he said.

Muslim groups welcome SC order

Muslim organisations and groups too welcomed the Supreme Court order. The Babri Masjid Action Committee of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said the Apex Court's observations on the High Court verdict were "noteworthy".

"We have full faith in judiciary. We will accept whatever decision is taken by the apex court," Committee co-convenor Sayed Kasim Rasool Ilyas said.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief Maulana Arshad Madni claimed that the court's observations had shown that their objection to the High Court verdict was justified. "We hope that justice will be done," Madni said.

Terming the order as a "ray of hope", Jamiat-e-Islami Hindi said, "We did not agree with the High Court verdict. We welcome the Supreme Court's direction".

Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the case, said, "We will accept every verdict delivered by court, but we are trying hard to reach a settlement to solve this issue peacefully, I along with Mahant Gyan Das have reached the final stages of our draft of peaceful solution".

Hashim said, "I appeal to both Hindus and Muslims brothers to fight this legal battle with peace and with love, don't ever come on roads or become prey to politicians over this matter."
   
Congress declines comment

Congress, however, refrained from commenting on the Supreme Court order staying Allahabad High Court's verdict.

"It is in our tradition that we do not comment on issues while they are pending in the court," was the brief response of party spokesperson Manish Tewari at the AICC briefing to the repeated questions on the SC order.

A senior Congress leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the party found nothing unusual in the SC terming as "something strange" the Allabhad High Court judgement as the earlier order dividing the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya in three parts, even though the parties to the dispute had not asked for trifurcation of the land, had an element of surprise.

"However, we stick to our stand. The issue can either be solved through mutual agreement among all stakeholders or the Supreme Court decision has to be binding on all. We will welcome either of these," the leader said.

CPM welcomes Court stay

CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat welcoming the Supreme Court order staying the Allahabad High Court's ruling on title suit, said, "We had criticised the Allahabad Hight Court judgement and using the issue of religious belief as a ground to give its order."

"We had questioned that (High Court verdict) and said that it was a very very dangerous precedent. The Supreme Court has stayed part of that order and we hope the Supreme Court will look into various related issues and rectify it," she said.

Uma favours settlement outside court

Expelled BJP leader Uma Bharti demanded building a country-wide consensus for construction of a magnificent temple at Ayodhya in wake of the Supreme Court order and said the matter should be settled outside court.

"From the beginning, we have been demanding that a consensus be built across the country for a magnificent temple in Ayodhya. There is no clash of faith in Ayodhya. There should not be any move to create such kind of a situation," she told reporters.

Bharti, a prime accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, feared that "if it (Ayodhya issue) drags on for long, it will continue to remain a dispute and vote bank politics will continue to be played over it."

She said basic and fundamental issues have got overshadowed as political parties like RJD and Samajwadi Parties have stirred up the Ayodhya controversy to win
elections.

"I have been telling this for long that Ayodhaya dispute should be settled outside court. Court has also said the nature of the case is such that it can be settled outside also," she said.

The former BJP leader said the Muslim community and Wakf Board members should create an atmosphere in the country for construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya. "They should extend support for it like in case of Somnath Temple," she said.

Vigil already on: UP Government

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government on Monday said vigil was being maintained in the entire state and no fresh directive regarding security had been issued in the wake of the Supreme Court stay on the Allahabad High Court's
verdict.

"We have not seen the order yet. Vigil is already being maintained and no new directive has been issued in this regard," Secretary (Home) Deepak Kumar told reporters in Lucknow.

JPN/Agencies