Prohibitory orders under Section 144, which bans the assembly of four or more persons, have been issued in Ayodhya as the hearing in the politically sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi - Babri Masjid land dispute enters its final leg today. The order, which came into effect late on Saturday night extends to December 10 and was passed "in anticipation of verdict in Ayodhya land case" and "considering safety and security of Ayodhya". The order also bans the use of drones for filming or shooting.
The Supreme Court will resume proceedings on the 38th day of the case after a week-long Dussehra break, with a verdict expected before November 17 - the day Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi demits office.
"Section 144 imposed in the district till December 10 in anticipation of verdict in Ayodhya land case. Decision to impose Section 144 also taken in consideration of upcoming festivals," District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
"The order has been issued considering safety and security of Ayodhya and those visiting here as (the) government's paramount concerns," Mr Jha tweeted late on Saturday night.
The District Magistrate said a similar order has been in force since August 31, 2019 and the current order was issued "to cover a couple of points not there in the earlier order".
I must add that already there is another order in force since 31.08.2019 covering aspects of unlawful assemblies and undesirable activities. The order dated 12.10.2019 has been issued to cover a couple of points which were not there in the earlier order. https://t.co/4acy0wmqjD— Anuj K Jha (@anujias09) October 13, 2019
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) expressed disappointment over the order and has sought permission to light earthen lamps at the disputed site on Diwali.
"When entire Ayodhya will be lit on Diwali, why should Ram Lalla remain in the dark? We will meet the Divisional Commissioner who is the receiver of the disputed site and seek his permission," Mahant Nayan Das was quoted in a report by news agency IANS.
In response, a Muslim litigant in the case, Haji Mehboob, declared that if the VHP could be allowed to light lamps at the disputed shrine, then Muslims could seek permission to offer 'namaaz'.
Last week 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.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi began day-to-day proceedings on August 6 after mediation proceedings failed to find an amicable solution to the dispute. Earlier this month the court indicated it would look to wrap up proceedings in the case by October 17, a day sooner than scheduled.
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.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished, sparking communal riots in the country.
With input from ANI, IANS