‘Ram Lalla Virajman’, the deity considered an infant form of Lord Ram, has been making arguments in the day-to-day Ayodhya hearings which commenced in the Supreme Court on August 6.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the top court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, which said that the disputed land in Ayodhya should be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’.
A bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, has been hearing the appeals. In case you are wondering how a deity can be party to an actual court case, you’re in good company. Read on to see what Ram Lalla’s arguments are.
Why is Ram Lalla in court?
A lawsuit filed on behalf of the deity in the Ayodhya case has made the birthplace of Ram a co-petitioner and sought claim over the entire 2.77 acre of disputed land at Ayodhya.
This Scroll report explains how Ram Lalla became a party to the Ayodhya case in the 1980s. Sruthisagar Yamunan writes, “The deity is considered a perpetual minor under the law, which is why it requires a friend to run the case on its behalf.”
That friend has changed a few times over the years and is currently Triloki Nath Pandey, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad member.
Pandey, who has been fighting for “Ram Lalla’s rights”, told Times of India, “This is the first case where the Lord is standing before court and pleading his own case.”
Senior advocate K. Parasaran, appearing for ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’, has argued that both the deity and the birthplace were “juristic” entities and hence, capable of holding properties and instituting lawsuits.
The twist—Nirmohi Akhara’s claim
Ram Lalla’s claim to the site puts a spanner in the case of Hindu body Nirmohi Akhara, which has been seeking management and proprietary rights over the disputed site on various grounds, including that it has the status of ‘shebaitship’(manager) of the deity.
The Akhara on August 6 told the court that the “Janma Asthan now commonly known as Janam Bhumi, the birthplace of Lord Ram Chandra was belonging to and in possession of the Akhara” since time immemorial.
It strongly pitched the Supreme Court for control and management of the entire disputed land, saying Muslims had not been allowed to enter the place since 1934.
The court on August 7 said since it was dealing with the issue of possession, the Hindu body would have to “establish” its case and has sought documentary materials about the maintenance of land records, including details of land revenue and who paid them.
Where was Ram born? And what’s the proof?
Each of the parties in the case has questioned the others’ claims to the disputed land.
Advocate K Parasaran asked the Supreme Court how the proof of Lord Ram’s birth at the place could be shown after so many centuries.
This led the court to ask if a question of this nature about the birth of a religious figure had ever arisen in any court.
Parasaran argued that the faith of believers was itself evidence. He then pointed out that Valmiki Ramayana mentioned in three places that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya.
On August 14, CS Vaidyanathan, another counsel for ‘Ram Lalla’, said, “It is always considered to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.”
“Persistent pilgrimage and devotees shows the faith and belief of the people on the place, which is called Janamsthan,” he added.
He argued, “It was the belief of Hindus to say Lord Ram’s birthplace is Ayodhya and the court should not go beyond to see how rational.”
He quoted the ‘Puranas’ written by sages and the travelogues of English trader William Finch, missionary Joseph Tiefenthaler and physician Francis Buchanan, to buttress claims that Hindus have long believed Ayodhya to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The bench then asked which place was regarded as the real birthplace of Lord Ram. The lawyer said that the High Court had held that the place under the central dome of the disputed structure was the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Are Ram’s heirs still in Ayodhya?
On August 9, the court asked whether “anyone from the ‘Raghuvansha’ dynasty is still living” in Ayodhya. Parasaran could not answer the query.
But on August 11, BJP lawmaker Diya Kumari, a member of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family, claimed that her family has descended from Lord Ram’s son Kush.
“The court has said where are the descendants of Lord Ram... Descendants of Lord Ram are all over the world, including our family who descended from his son Kush,” the MP from Rajsamand in Rajasthan said.
Kumari said that she was willing to present documents proving these links to the court, if needed.
Can a birthplace become part of the case?
The Supreme Court on August 8 asked how ‘Janamsthanam’ can file a case in the land dispute as a party. “So far as idols of deities are concerned, they had been held to be a juristic person,” the bench said.
Parasaran has argued that even the birthplace of the deity can be considered a juristic person.
Parasaran told the bench, “In Hindu religion, idols are not necessary for a place to be regarded as a holy place of worship... Rivers and Sun are also worshipped in Hinduism and birthplace in itself can be treated as a juristic person.”
The bench then referred to a judgement of the Uttarakhand High Court in which the holy river Ganga was held to be a juristic entity entitled to pursue the litigation.
On August 9, Parasaran said there was no need for the presence of any idol for a place to be termed as a temple, which has the character of a “juristic” person capable of owning properties and institute lawsuits, he said.
“Hindus started worshipping Lord Ram even before the idol was installed and temple was built,” Parasaran said.
Against division of the disputed site
On August 13, Chief Justice Gogoi asked that if Hindus and Muslims jointly possessed the disputed site, then how Muslims could be ousted from it.
CS Vaidyanathan argued that since the birthplace of Lord Ram was also a deity, any division of the property would amount to “destruction” and “mutilation” of the deity itself.
“Place of birth of Lord Ram has become a deity by the faith of the people. The three-domed Babri mosque coming up in 1500s did not shake the faith in the sanctity and dignity of Hindus,” he said.
The access was always contested but Hindus were never stopped from worshipping, he said, adding, “There would be no death of a deity and hence, no question of succession of the deity”.
He said Muslims could not claim rights to the site since they had not been able to prove that the mosque belonged to Babar.
Referring to records, the lawyer said from 1856-57 to 1934, Muslims used to offer ‘namaz’ at the site and from 1934, the offering of ‘namaz’ five times was discontinued. He said Muslims had wrongly been granted one-third share of the disputed land as their claim of having offered prayers there from 1850 to 1949 was not supported by the ownership of land.
They have neither proved title nor ouster of Hindu title by adverse possession, he said, adding that the deity continued to be the owner of the land despite the construction of the mosque.
Nirmohi Akhara also has no right over the birthplace because of its position as ‘shabait’ and due to the fact that place in itself was the deity, he argued.
“The entire birthplace (janmasthanam), should be regarded as the ‘deity’ and hence Akhara cannot claim ownership of land, as they are in service of the deity,” he said.
Did the temple exist?
A “massive” temple of Lord Ram, dating back to the second century BC, existed at the disputed site in Ayodhya before the construction of Babri Masjid, Vaidyanathan argued on August 16.
He referred to the report of a court commissioner, appointed to inspect the site in 1950, and also relied upon the findings of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).
The senior lawyer extensively referred to various pictures and reports, including the ASI’s findings on the excavated materials from the disputed site, and said, however, there was no material to show that it was a temple of only Lord Ram.
But the pictures of the deities, including those of Lord Shiva, sculptures on the pillars of “Garuda” flanked by lions and the images of lotus amply indicated that it was a temple and moreover, these things were not found in mosques, Vaidyanathan submitted.
“Keeping in mind the faith of Hindus and preponderance of probability, it would indicate that this was a temple of Lord Ram,” he said.
“Along with the massive old structure, other materials found during excavation suggested that it was a temple,” the senior lawyer added.
In December, Supriya Varma, an archaeologist who challenged the Archeological Survey of India’s 2003 finding that there was evidence of a temple under the Babri Masjid, had told HuffPost India in a detailed interview that this was wrong and that there were actually older mosques under the razed building.
(With PTI inputs)