Lawyers representing "Ram Lalla Virajman", or the infant Lord Ram, in the politically sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi - Babri Masjid case filed a relief affidavit with the Supreme Court today, asking that the disputed land be handed over for the construction of a Ram Temple. The group's lawyers argued the Muslim petitioners were entitled to neither land nor equitable relief as the Babri Masjid no longer exists. The lawyers also said the Nirmohi Akhara should not be awarded the land because it had questioned whether Ram Janmasthan - the birthplace of Lord Ram - could be considered a juristic entity.
"Ayodhya is a sacred place and it is a place of pilgrimage. It is the faith of the Hindus that Ayodhya has divine and spiritual significance even in the absence of temple or idol," the Hindu group said in its affidavit.
"Reconstructing the mosque at the disputed site is inequitable, unjust and contrary to Hindu Dharma, Islamic Law and all principles of justice. The area which is under dispute is one integral unit and is indivisible, so the whole area should be given to offer worship at Ram Janmasthan," the affidavit read.
Muslim parties also submitted a relief to the Supreme Court today but did done so in a sealed cover after divisions within the Sunni Waqf Board were exposed this week. However, lawyers for the Hindu group objected.
"'Moulding of Relief' given in sealed cover by Muslim petitioners is not permissible. This encourages address to the court in secrecy and keeps other parties in the dark. It prejudices the rights of other petitioners," the lawyers said today.
On Wednesday, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, concluded 40 straight days of hearings in a case that has dominated political and national headlines for decades. A verdict is expected before November 17, when the Chief Justice demits office. Last week prohibitory orders under Section 144 were imposed in Ayodhya district in anticipation of the verdict.
Two days after daily hearings ended rifts emerged between the Sunni Waqf Board and other Muslim petitioners, after reports suggested the Sunni Board had offered to drop its claim to the disputed site and, according to sources familiar with the report of the Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel, said it had no objection to a Ram Temple being built.
The other Muslim petitioners hit back through a statement released by their five lawyers, denying they had agreed to any such report. In a detailed statement, one of the lawyers, Ejaz Maqbool, said: "... we must make it absolutely clear that we the appellants before Supreme Court do not accept the proposal".
"It is difficult to accept that any mediation could have been done under the circumstances especially when the main Hindu parties had openly stated that they were not open to any settlement and all the other Muslim Appellants made it clear, but, they would not do so," the lawyers wrote.
The settlement plan had been described as a "win-win" for both Hindus and Muslims by Sunni Board lawyer Shahid Rizvi.Earlier this month a group of Muslim intellectuals - Indian Muslims for Peace - called for a negotiated settlement, including the option of gifting the disputed land to the Hindus even if the Muslim side were to win.
Both Hindus and Muslims claim the land on which the 16th century Babri Masjid stood before it was destroyed by Hindu activists, who believe the mosque was built on the ruins of ancient temple, in 1992. The cataclysmic incident shook Indian politics and caused riots across the country.