By C.J. Kuncheria
NEW DELHI | Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:39pm IST
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Allahabad High Court to delay a potentially explosive verdict on whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhya.
The deferral of the verdict, which many fear could have sparked off religious riots, will be a relief for the government, which already has its hands full dealing with a rebellion in Kashmir and rushing against the clock to set right preparations for the Commonweath Games.
(For slideshow: Ayodhya braces for court Verdict, click here)
The decades-old case over the 16th century Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh state is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.
Hindu mobs demolished the mosque in the town of Ayodhya in 1992, claiming it was built on the birthplace of their god-king Rama. The demolition triggered the worst religious riots since partition in 1947, and some 2,000 people died.
The Supreme Court prevented the lower court from delivering the judgement on Friday as originally slated and it is now unclear when the verdict will come.
The top court will now hear an appeal for a stay on the verdict on Sept. 28, filed by a person who said the matter could be settled out of court.
“The petitioner obviously believes that if the Supreme Court lends a helping hand, a soothing touch, it is possible that the warring parties will see reason and try and bring a solution,” Supreme Court lawyer Mukul Rohtagi told reporters.
The oldest of the suits being decided dates back to 1949, and Rama is one of the petitioners. Under Indian law, a deity is a legal person and can own property.
BOTH SIDES DISAPPOINTED WITH RULING
Lawyers for both sides said they were disappointed by the delay, saying the chances of a re(For more news visit Reuters India)conciliation after years of litigation were slim.
“I think that there is no chance of reconciliation,” said Zafaryab Jilani, the lawyer for the Muslim body fighting the case. “Both parties are rigid and ready for the court judgement.”
Similar sentiments were voiced by Ranjana Agnihotri, lawyer for the Hindu litigants, who added: “I think some politicians did not want this judgement to come out.”
Federal and state governments had been on top alert ahead of the verdict, beefing up security and banning public meetings, processions and bulk mobile text messages that could have been used to spread rumours and organise riots.
The verdict could prove a major political quandary for the government led by the Congress Party, a left-of-centre party with secular roots.
A verdict in favour of the Hindus would force the government to uphold the verdict, making it unpopular with Muslims, a key vote bloc.
A ruling for the Muslims would mean the government would have to push Hindu groups out of the site, a political minefield.
(Writing by Paul de Bendern; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Ron Popeski)
(For more news visit Reuters India)