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While last ditch closed-door mediation efforts are on for resolving the Ayodhya dispute, one of the litigants in the case, Nirmohi Akhara, today (Tuesday, April 9) moved the Supreme Court opposing the Centre’s plea seeking return of 67.390 acre of “non-disputed” acquired land around the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site to original owners.

The Centre on Jan 29, asked the apex court to allow it to restore the acquired “superfluous” excess land – the major chunk of the land except the 0.313 acres on which the Babri Masjid stood – to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, one of the parties in the title suit which is leading the campaign for construction of the Ram Mandir.

The Nirmohi Akhara, in its fresh plea, has opposed the Centre’s application by which it had sought modification of the Supreme Court’s 2003 order to allow it to return to original owners the 67.390 acre of “non-disputed” acquired land around the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya.

The application has said that the Centre has proposed returning of acquired land to Ram Janambhoomi Nyas and that there are many temples on the acquired land and their rights would be affected if the land is returned to one party.

The Akhara said the acquisition of land by the Centre has already destroyed many temples managed by the organisation and hence it wants the court to decide the title dispute, news agency ANI added.

In its plea, the Centre said it had acquired 67 acres of land around the 2.77 acres disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site. In 2003, the apex court had ordered that the status quo be maintained with regard to the acquired 67 acres of land around the disputed site.

The Centre argued in its application that the Supreme Court’s judgment in Dr M Ismail Faruqui and Ors Vs Union of India (October 24, 1994), which upheld the Constitutional validity of the Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993, under which the 67.703 acres were acquired, had also established that the “interest claimed by the Muslims was only over the disputed site of 0.313 acres where the disputed structure stood before its demolition”.

“It is respectfully submitted that the acquisition took place in the year 1993 and 25 years have passed, the original landowners whose land, which were not in dispute but were still acquired, are entitled to get it back and the Central government is duty bound to restore/revert/hand over the same land,” said the Centre’s application that was filed with the apex court registry, on January 28.

The prayer in the application reads: “Permit the Central government to restore/revert/hand over back superfluous/excess vacant land (other than the disputed land measuring 0.313 acres) to the owners/occupiers from whom the respective lands were acquired under the Act of 1993”.

“The Hon’ble Court be pleased to modify the order dated 31.3.2003 passed in the captioned matter so as to enable the central government to determine the exact extent of land required from out of the superfluous/excess land to ensure that successful party in the dispute pending regarding the ‘disputed land’ can have proper access to and enjoyment of rights in the disputed land. This applicant undertakes that each and every concern expressed by this Hon’ble Court in Ismail Faruqui (supra) and other judgments referred to above will be scrupulously taken care of,” the application states further.

The Ayodhya title dispute reached the Supreme Court after appeals were filed against a 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment in the matter. The high court ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya. The land was to be divided equally between the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Uttar Pradesh and Ramlalla Virajman.

The Supreme Court has referred the decades-old title dispute for in-camera mediation. The five-judge bench headed by CJI Gogoi constituted a three-member mediation panel headed by former SC judge Justice F M Kalifullah to resolve the issue. The other members of the panel include spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu.

The ruling BJP which released its manifesto yesterday asserted that it will make all necessary efforts within the framework of Constitution for “expeditious construction” of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. “We reiterate our stand on Ram Mandir. We will explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution and all necessary efforts to facilitate the expeditious construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya,” the Sankalp Patra read.

Handing over the ‘surplus’ land would enable the beginning of preliminary groundwork for construction of the Ram Mandir even before the dispute is decided. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad had welcomed the Centre’s move. In a press statement, the VHP had said that the land under litigation, where the disputed structure existed, admeasures only 0.313 acres out of the total 67.703 acquired by the government in 1993.

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