New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Muslim parties about the origins of the holiest place in Islam, as their counsel contested the stand of Ram Janmabhoomi, the birthplace of Lord Ram, being a juristic personality (a legal entity having stakes in the case) in the Ayodhya title dispute.
With the Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi conducting the hearing in the case, Justice S.A. Bobde, the second senior-most judge on the bench, asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan if the "Kaaba is sculpted or it is Swayambhu, self-manifested?"
Dhavan, who is representing the Muslim parties, replied it is intrinsically divine, as Prophet Muhammad said there is one god and only one god.
The query came up as the judges on the bench asked the Muslim parties on its stand on the Ram Janmabhoomi, the birthplace of Lord Ram, having stakes in the Ayodhya title dispute. A juristic person in law can hold property and institute litigation.
The Allahabad High Court, in its 2010 order, partitioned the 2.77 acre land in the disputed site equally among the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman (the birthplace).
Dhavan has also contested Hindu parties' reliance on the Skanda Purana, a Hindu religious text to support their arguments on the birthplace of Lord Ram at the disputed site. He also said the concept of belief in the birthplace of god was invented in 1989.
On Suit 5 in the Ayodhya dispute filed by Devki Nandan in 1989, as a next friend of Ram Lalla, who can represent the deity legally, Dhavan told the court that if it were to decide on the basis of next friend, then somebody will often come stating the same and claim its possession on the disputed site.
"It is a very dangerous proposition to expand this right to represent," he argued.
The bench's observations came during the arguments on the juristic nature of the deity and Lord Ram's birthplace.
Justice Bobde queried Dhavan: "Your argument is that area of earth (with reference to a birthplace) is juristic personality is something invoked by them (Hindus) in 1989. Nobody ever before that asserted that this (birthplace) is juristic personality."
Justice Ashok Bhushan, who is also on the bench, added: "The question of juristic personality is a developing... The concept of juristic personality is evolving."
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said: "There are two jurisprudential ideas – the need to protect the endowment and the other need to protect the interest of the worshippers, while emphasizing the need of recognition of the deity." His observation came while citing the status of deity as a legal entity.
The court also observed that it is a widely-held belief among Hindus that the birthplace of a deity is sanctimonious. "The sanctity of belief has to be looked from the perception of belief of that religion. There has to be low threshold inquiry, and belief has to be accepted," it said.
As Justice Bobde asked Dhavan if the birthplace as juristic person was ever asserted before, and if so, what was the occasion, the lawyer said: "Never".
Then another judge told Dhavan that Hindu parties may have referred the place as the deity's birthplace in 1950 when the first suit in the dispute was filed. To this, Dhavan replied that is a subjective belief and not objective.
During the first half, Zafaryab Jilani, senior advocate appearing for the Sunni Waqf Board, told the court there is no documentary evidence on record to show that disputed structure was not being used as mosque between 1934 and 1949. The Nirmohi Akhara has claimed no namaz was offered at the disputed site after 1934.
He cited the agreement between the imam and the trustee where the latter was paying a certain amount to the former.
The arguments will continue on Monday.
By Sumit Saxena