New Delhi: Losing his cool, a senior advocate for Muslim parties in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in the Supreme Court, told a curious judge Friday that he was seeing “some kind of aggression” in his tone.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which was hearing the decades-old politically sensitive case on 27th day, did not re-assemble after the lunch break and a source said that the CJI was not feeling well.
“The CJI was a bit unwell that is why the board was discharged post-lunch,” the source said.
The bench was earlier questioning senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for Sunni Waqf Board and others including original litigant M Siddiq, about the testimony of a witness who had visited the disputed site in 1935 and had deposed before the Allahabad High Court in 2000.
The bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, asked Dhavan to read some other portions of the testimony of witness Ram Surat Tiwari dealing with prayers offered by the Hindus at the railings on the disputed site.
“This witness said that he had gone there (site) in 1935. Read his statement, whether we believe it or not is something else,” Justice Bhushan asked Dhavan.
“I can see some kind of aggression in My lord’s tone,” Dhavan said, adding, “If lordships are saying that I am twisting the evidence then I will read that out.”
This is not about twisting, the point is whether certain facts are there or not, the judge said.
Senior advocates C S Vaidyanathan and Ranjit Kumar objected to the assertions of Dhavan who quickly apologised to the bench.
“My apologies. Sometimes, I am taken aback. I get frightened, what should I do. When there is a hearing which is going on for this long, we sometimes get carried away,” Dhavan said.
“Dr Dhavan, people who come from the North West Frontier do not get frightened. We are impressed by the history,” the CJI observed with a smile.
On Wednesday also, Dhavan had termed as “conjecture” the Supreme Court’s observation that the Hindus believed in some divinity in the central dome of the disputed structure at the site which made them offer prayers at the railings put up by the British in 1858.
He had quickly apologised.
At the outset, Dhavan on Thursday referred to the testimonies of various witnesses, produced by the Hindu side in the High Court, to drive home the point that there was Babri mosque at the site, and they failed to prove the place under the central dome to be the exact birthplace of Lord Ram.
He referred to the suit filed by Nirmohi Akhara’s Mahant Raghbar Das in 1885 and said that it was constructing a temple at ‘Ram Chabutara’ in the outer courtyard of the site.
The Sub Judge, Faizabad, did not allow the petition and there was a finding that Muslims were praying inside and Hindus were offering ‘puja’ in the outer courtyard, he said.
He again responded to yesterday’s observation of the apex court that the ‘Ram Chabutara’ was set up in the close proximity of the railing because Hindus believed of some divinity in the central dome and this is the reason they were praying at the railing.
There was no evidence that Hindus prayed at the railings or grilled wall, Dhavan said.
He then dealt in detail with the evidence of Tiwari as the top court wanted him to read the testimony in totality to have the clear picture.
He said Tiwari had visited the place with his uncle in December 1935 when he was 12-13 year old said that he had seen one idol and one photograph there at the site.
Dhavan said the witness stated he was an atheist and believed that Lord Ram took birth inside the central dome and described the details in the court in 2000 about what he saw in 1935.
There were many discrepancies in Tiwari’s testimony and he is not able to remember anything, he added.
However, the bench said that there was evidence that he had seen the idols inside the central dome before 1949, the year when it was alleged that the idols were placed inside surreptitiously.
All this evidence came after 1989 when the lawsuit on behalf of the deity was filed and these are no credible proofs, Dhavan said, adding that after the ‘rath yatra’ and demolition of the structure, the Ram Janmbhoomi had become a bigger issue and such testimonies were recorded after these events.
He also referred to principles of law on evidence and said with the “deepest respect” the statements of the witness cannot be regarded as credible proof.
He then reiterated his arguments on ‘shebait’ (devotee) and next friend and said that idols or deities have to be represented by the ‘shebait’ only as no other person can have the legal authority to file a lawsuit.
He alleged that Deoki Nandan Agrawal, the next friend of deity ‘Ram Lalla’, had no locus and the court should not allow such friends as it would affect the legal position on endowment and various land grabbers may emerge to oust ‘Shebaits’.
The hearing would continue on Friday.
The Allahabad High Court, in its judgment of 2010 on four civil lawsuits, had partitioned the 2.77-acre disputed land equally among Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the verdict.