Has Sunni Waqf Board withdrawn claim to disputed Ayodhya land?
Amid the century-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, it seemed the Sunni Waqf Board on Wednesday had withdrawn its claim to the religious site on the last day of the hearings. However, Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board Chairman Zafar Ahmed Farooqui and senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who is representing the Board in the Supreme Court, have denied the reports of a surrender.
Reports, citing unnamed sources, stated that a court-appointed mediation panel had submitted a report to the SC which said that the Sunni Waqf Board has sought to withdraw from the title suit. The reports emerged on the 40th day of Supreme Court hearings in the Ayodhya land dispute case even as lawyers appearing for the Waqf Board denied them through the day.
Sunni Waqf Board chairman Zafar Ahmad Faruqui told The Times of India, "No truth in reports regarding withdrawal of appeals by the Board. However, there is a confidentiality order of the SC regarding mediation. I will update you once it is lifted."
Further, speaking to The Print, advocate Rajeev Dhawan said, "None of the Advocates on Record for Sunni Waqf Board nor I got any instructions that the rights have been surrendered... nor any application to that effect has been filed. Our case has been argued." Senior lawyer Zafaryab Jilani, also appearing for the board, dismissed the reports of an affidavit being filed as "rumor-mongering."
Even so, the details of a proposed settlement were published by several news portals. According to The Indian Express, a "no objection certificate" was presented before the Constitution Bench by the mediation team, however, the settlement it proposed was only agreed on by "some parties." While the Sunni Waqf Board reportedly agreed to a settlement, six other Muslim parties have not.
Furthermore, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-controlled Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, the deity Ramlalla are also not party to the proposed NOC. The parties which apparently agreed to the proposed settlement include the Hindu Mahasabha, the Akhil Bhartiya Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Punaruddhar Samiti, and Shri Mahant Rajendradas of the Nirmohi Ani Akhara, TIE reported. The lack of support makes the NOC "partial, if not weak ."
The settlement seeks a firm safeguard for all other mosques under The Places of Worship Act, 1991. It sought the renovation of 22 mosques in Ayodhya, damaged during the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. Further, the settlement sought the resumption of namaz in religious places under the Archaeological Survey of India, along with an institution for "social harmony" and an alternate mosque for Babri Masjid.
It should be noted that the mediation process had started in March with former Supreme Court judge, Justice (Retd.) Khalifullah, advocate Sriram Panchu and the Art of Living founder Ravishankar heading the panel. However, the panel failed to reach an out-of-court settlement, as observed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by CJI Gogoi, will now meet on Thursday.