Ayodhya Dispute: Centre Seeks SC Nod To Return Excess Land

NEW DELHI — In a move that is big on optics ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led-Central government on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to hand over 67.39 acre of “non-disputed” and “superfluous” excess land adjacent to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas or the trust overseeing the Ram temple plan.

The move could see some form of construction of a Ram temple by Hindu groups if the handover is allowed, amid pressure from the RSS and Hindutva groups on the Centre to facilitate this step.

 Seeking modification of the apex court’s 2003 order for maintaining status quo on the entire 67.39 acre land, including the disputed 2.77 acre site, the government asked the top court to carve out the exact extent of land necessary to access the disputed area and allow it to give the excess land back to the Nyas.

In its application, the Centre also said that the entire 2.77 acre premises, within which the disputed structure stood before its demolition on December 6, 1992, cannot be termed as disputed.

The Centre it its application claimed that only 0.313-acre plot, on which the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure stood, is disputed.

Later, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that the plea before the Supreme Court is a “legal decision” taken in sync with the BJP stand on Temple.

He clarified that the government has not “touched” the disputed land.

“Today the government has taken a very important in-principle decision to return the excess land which was acquired in 1994 to the original landowners. One of the land owners of 42 acre, out of 67 acre, is Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. The government wants to return the land to its original owners and they want to build the Ram temple there,” he said.

The 33-page application showcases the BJP-led government’s commitment to the Ayodhya cause as rightwing groups intensify their campaign for a temple at what they believe is the birthplace of Lord Ram.

After the destruction of the Babri mosque, the then Congress government acquired 67.703 acre, including the land measuring 2.77 acre, through a legislation in 1993.

The 67.703 acre land, mainly belonging to Hindus, is vested with the Centre as its custodian under the Acquisition of Certain Area in Ayodhya Act of 1993.

The Union home ministry said in the application filed on Monday that instead of “confining the order of status quo to the disputed land” the Supreme Court had extended the restraining order to adjacent acquired land as well.

The Centre also referred to the SC’s verdict in the 1994 Ismail Faruqui case, saying the top court had observed that if the Centre wants to return the acquired land to its original owners then it may do so.

Dubbing the Centre’s move as an “insidious attempt”, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi accused it of trying everything in their capacity to prevent a fair and independent adjudication of the dispute.


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