Daily hearings in the politically sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute are likely to end on Wednesday, the 40th day of hearings, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said today. The hearings had originally been scheduled to end on October 18, and then later rescheduled for October 17, with the court expected to announce a verdict before the Chief Justice demits office on November 17. In today's hearing, senior advocate K Parasaran, appearing for 'Ram Lalla Virajman', one of the parties in the dispute, said Hindus had been fighting for centuries for the place believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram and argued that Muslims could pray at any mosque they wanted.
"Muslims can pray in any other mosque as well. There are 55-60 mosques in Ayodhya alone. But for Hindus, it is the birth place of Lord Ram...we can't change the birthplace," he said, adding, "For Hindus, it is the birthplace. For Muslims it is a historic mosque. All mosques are equal for Muslims. For us, we can't change birthplace".
In a lighter moment in the court the Chief Justice also asked Rajeev Dhavan, who represents the Muslim petitioners, if he felt the court was asking enough questions of the Hindu parties.
"We are saying this on a lighter note. Not everything has to be taken seriously. Today is 39th day," the Chief Justice said.
Earlier Mr Parasaran said no person - either Muslim or Hindu - could claim exclusive possession of the site as it was a place of public worship. The remark was objected to by Mr Dhavan, who said the dispute was not one between worshippers of different religions.
Mr Parasaran ignored the interruption, stating that he would only answer to the court's objections.
On Monday, the top court resumed daily hearings in the Ayodhya case after a week-long Dussehra break. It heard from Muslim respondents who said there was no claim for the title in the Ayodhya land by the Hindus until 1989. They asked for the restoration of the Babri Masjid as it stood before it was demolished in December 1992.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government has imposed prohibitory orders in Ayodhya district under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, "in anticipation of verdict in Ayodhya land case".
The five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India began day-to-day proceedings on August 6 after mediation proceedings failed to find an amicable solution to the dispute.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the top court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The dispute involves 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya, which right-wing activists believe was the birthplace of the Lord Ram. A 16th Century mosque - said to have been built by the Mughal Emperor Babur -- which stood at the spot was razed in December 1992 by right-wing activists who believed that a temple had to make way for it. The destruction of the mosque sparked communal riots in the country.
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