The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking its permission to return the excess or superfluous land around the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site to original owners, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The government made this appeal following the request by one of the three parties to the dispute. The plea has said the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (a trust to promote construction of Ram Temple) had sought the return of excess land acquired in 1991 to original owners.

In the fresh plea, the Centre said it had acquired 67 acres of land including the 2.77 acres disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site. The Union government sought permission of the apex court to return the excess land to its original owners.

The Centre has said in its plea that it has no objection in returning the land to its actual owners.

“The applicant (Centre) is filing this Application seeking permission of this Court to permit the applicant to fulfil the duty to revert/restore/hand over the excess/superfluous land acquired under the Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993,” the plea said.

The Centre in its fresh plea has sought modification of the apex court order of 2003 in which it had directed to maintain status quo with regard to the acquired land.

“The Applicant is seeking permission of this court to discharge its duty as earmarked in the judgment of the constitution bench by suitably modifying /vacating the order dated 31.11.2003,” the plea said.

“One party namely Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas whose land measuring approximately 42 acres [which is a part of the superfluous/excess land] was acquired, has moved an application relying on the constitution bench judgment of this court,” the plea said.

Neither Muslims nor court can object

The Centre referred to the Supreme Court’s verdict in the 1994 Ismail Faruqui case, saying the top court had observed that if the Centre wanted to return the acquired land to its original owners then it may do so.

“The Constitution Bench of this Court has held that the superfluous area which is other than the disputed area of 0.313 acres shall be reverted/restored to its original owners,” the plea said.

When the Supreme Court called the land around the disputed site “superfluous” to the title suit — the only aspect of the dispute that the judiciary will deal with — the Muslim party to the dispute had nothing to object to, as they were concerned only with the small piece of land where Babri Masjid once stood.

At the same time, if the government withdraws from the land around the disputed site, those plots go back to their original owners, a majority of whom are Hindus.

This means that, even in the scenario where Muslims win this case and thereafter build a mosque on the disputed site, members of the faith may be denied access to the place of worship by the Hindus who live around the site.

Lest this probable scenario is brought to the court’s notice ― the Muslim party to the dispute may raise this issue ― the government assured the court that it would ensure the access even after it returns the plots around the disputed site to their respective original owners. “The Central Government has no objection in principle if the superfluous land is restored to RJB Nyas as well as other owners after determining the extent of land required for proper access to and enjoyment of rights in the disputed area by preparing a plan map,” the application reads.

Now it is to be seen whether the Supreme Court accepts this application including the assurance by the government.

Ayodhya land acquisition

The government of PV Narasimha Rao in 1991 had acquired about 67 acres of land including the disputed site.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

Union Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad had on Monday disapprove of the slow pace of hearing on the Ayodhya title suit in the Supreme Court and appealed to it for an “expeditious decision” as had been done in the matters related to adultery and Sabarimala temple.

Prasad qualified his views with the remark that he spoke as a citizen and not as the law minister.

His remarks came a day after the Supreme Court Sunday cancelled the January 29 hearing in the politically sensitive Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute case as one member of the five-judge Constitution bench would not be available.

The Supreme Court had on Sunday cancelled the hearing scheduled for Tuesday in the title dispute case due to non-availability of Justice S A Bobde, one of the five judges of the Constitution bench.