Senior lawyer Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared for Muslim petitioners in the landmark Ayodhya temple-mosque case, posted on Facebook today that he had been sacked unceremoniously by the group Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind over reasons he described as "total nonsense". The Jamiat had yesterday filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review its verdict last month on the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri mosque dispute.
The sacking has divided Muslim petitioners in the case, with the Muslim personal law board calling it a big mistake.
"Just been sacked from the Babri case by Advocate-on-record Ejaz Maqbool who was representing the Jamiat. Have sent formal letter accepting the 'sacking' without demur. No longer involved in the review or the case," Rajeev Dhavan posted this morning on his Facebook page.
"I have been informed that Mr Madani (Jamiat chief Maulana Arshad Madani) has indicated that I was removed from the case because I was unwell. This is total nonsense. He has a right to instruct his lawyer Ejaz Maqbool to sack me which he did on instructions. But the reason being floated is malicious and untrue," wrote the senior lawyer.
Reflecting a rift within, other Muslim petitioners asserted that Rajeev Dhavan remained their lawyer and had been removed only by the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind.
"This is a big mistake by the Jamiat. We apologise to Rajeev Dhavan. He will remain our lawyer, we will convince him. He did not charge us even one rupee. We are grateful to him," said Kamal Farooqui, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).
Ejaz Maqbool, the Jamiat lawyer, said Mr Dhavan was not available when the organization filed its review petition yesterday. "I could not give his name in the petition because he was not available. It is not a big issue," Mr Maqbool told ANI.
Mr Dhavan, in response, said: "I don't know what their compulsions were but they confirmed to me it was a sacking. Now they are saying that I was sick and unavailable, it is a lie." He said he went on Facebook only to clarify on Mr Maqbool's claims.
The Jamiat's is the first review petition after the Supreme Court's November 9 decision on the disputed land where the Babri mosque stood before it was razed in December 1991 by Hindu activists who believed it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The Supreme Court ruled that the 2.77 acre land belongs entirely to the deity Ram Lalla (the infant Lord Ram) and ordered that Muslims be given a prominent five-acre site elsewhere in Ayodhya. The Supreme Court also said that Muslims had been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago.