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Published in the 16-31 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Ayodhya docs to be published
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: The Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid legal wrangle is, right now, into its 55th year leading to the accumulation of an onerous pile of documentation. No wonder, a separate room has been allocated as Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid Vivad Kaktchh (RJB/BM dispute room) inside Lucknow High Court.
It was about two years back when counsels of both Muslim and Hindu side requested the Court that the record of the case may be printed through an agency of the Central Government so that the counsels as well as the judges may not have any difficulty in referring to the same during the course of arguments.

The Central Government, thereafter, entrusted this responsibility with an “authorised person”, i.e. Commissioner of Faizabad. But the Commissioner got the documents photostated instead of printing them in volumes. Zafaryab Jilani, the counsel of Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB) brought to notice of the Court that its orders had not been fully complied with as the documents had not been printed and only photostat copies of the same had been prepared.

Kalyan blames “Pak infiltrators”
for Babri demolition

New Delhi: The counsel for former UP chief minister, Kalyan Singh told the Liberhan Commission on June 29 that either Pakistani infiltrators or Congressmen could have demolished the Babri Masjid in Dec. 1992. 

The counsel Mr BB Saxsena said that "it is possible that Pakistani infiltrators brought it down to create disturbances in India." The BJP or Kalyan Singh could not have gained anything from its demolition, he claimed.

To back his claim, he quoted a statement of the then Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh who had said in his deposition that there had been information about some Pakistani infiltrators reaching Ayodhya but a probe found no evidence of it. Saxsena said that Kalyan Singh had no role in the demolition of Babri Masjid directly or indirectly and that the CBI failed to gather any evidence against him even after a year-long probe. The CBI drew an inference about his alleged involvement to demolish the mosque on the basis of his acknowledgement to a letter written by a Shiv Sena MP who wanted to know whether the BJP would implement its agenda of building a Ram Temple at Ayodhya

The Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court, consisting of Justices Syed Rafat Alam, Khem Karan and Bhanwar Singh, passed an order on March 19 this year giving the Central Government a two-month time to file the printed copies of the same.

The Central Government, on the other hand, requested more time for the preparation of printed copies and informed the court that the print of eight-volumes containing documents filed by the parties have been prepared and given to the parties for verification and, after verification by the parties the printed copies would be finally prepared and filed. The Central Government counsel RP Mehrotra stated further that the printing of the remaining nine volumes has also been completed but the scanning of documents is taking extra time because the documents were old and weathered, therefore, extra time would be needed for their printing. He pleaded for further four weeks for the preparation of the remaining nine volumes.

The Bench then ordered that the parties shall return the said eight volumes given to them after necessary verification within a period of three weeks starting from May 17, 2004. The Central Government thereafter would serve the remaining nine-volumes to the counsels of both sides, which they would return after verification within three weeks from the date of the receipt of the printed copies. Thereafter the final printing will be undertaken.

The order comes as a respite because now the court as well as the counsels of both sides will be able to access the published form of the Ayodhya dispute documents in the near future.

Meanwhile, the same Bench hearing the arguments between Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and SCWB passed another order on May 21, 2004. This order came after ASI had moved an application to be provided with a complete set of records pertaining to the Ayodhya excavation submitted to the same Court.

The application evoked serious objections from Zafaryab Jilani. He contested that the record filed in the Court is the property of the Court and there is no practice or provision in law to provide copies to the ASI or to the Commissioner appointed by the Court.

"If such an application was to be allowed, it would be like laying down a wrong precedent. I pleaded before the Court and urged that when parties’ counsels were not being supplied all these documents, free of cost, then how the Commissioner could be given such a facility," Jilani told MG. 

The Court, however, without entering into the question as to whether the Commissioner, appointed under Order XXIV of CPC, is entitled to the copy of the report or not, emphasised on the special nature of the litigation and observed that since the Commissioner happened to be an instrument of the Central Government no prejudice is likely to be caused if one copy of the report was given to the ASI. The Court at the same time also pointed out that “it should not be used by the ASI nor it should be published through press or media until the decision of this Court.”

During the course of proceedings three other prayers were made by the ASI, namely (1) to remove the shamyana (overhead shed) beyond the L-series of trenches in the north and south on the excavated site of Ranjanambhumi/Babri Masjid site at Ayodhya, (2) to erect a shamyana of about 10 ft. in width over the western side of the makeshift structure and (3) to permit the persons nominated by authorised persons to enter the excavated area for the purpose of maintenance and repair of the makeshift structure. The Court rejected these requests which were opposed by Jilani.

"The Supreme Court in Ismail Farooqui V’s Union of India 1994 judgement has said that status-quo should be maintained and therefore there was no question of any renovation or improvement to be made to the makeshift structure," said Jilani who opposed these requests.

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