The best part of the Ayodhya verdict is the judgment of Justice Sudhir Agarwal. Though a huge affair running to over 5,200 pages, his is one of the most organised and best-written judgments. One has only to look at the index he has provided (at p5136-5218) in Volume 21 of the judgment to get to what one wants- whether it is to know what the decision was on any of the issues, or to search for any documentary evidence or oral testimony used or any case law considered. Any reasonably skilled reader of legal documents may use the index as the key to unravel the judgment in a couple of days, which might otherwise take a fortnight.
That explains how articles like this appear in such a short time. It must have taken Justice Agarwal long periods of stress and labour to produce such a wonderful judicial document. More, to maintain confidentiality he must have done lots of the work himself. Also for writing the main judgment, he has analysed minutely all the evidence, documentary, oral and technical, himself; so that the other judgments just supplement his where there is agreement. But for his huge effort, it would be extremely difficult to unravel the Ayodhya verdict. If Justice Khan could write his “very short” judgment it is thanks to Justice Agarwal writing a very long one.
The Ayodhya verdict is not just a legal affair. It discusses, frankly, but with sensitivity, the Hindu-Muslim interface based on historic facts. It also touches upon history, archeology, sociology, religion and related disciplines. A reading of the verdict will reveal its reach and depth. So the nation must be grateful to the judges, particularly Justice Agarwal, for a stupendous work.
The criticality of Justice Agarwal’s judgment, in the overall Ayodhya verdict, is manifest in that, virtually what he has said has turned out to be the final verdict. This is because, with Justice Sharma and Justice Khan taking almost divergent positions, to the extent Justice Agarwal agreed with either of them on any issue his views became the final view on that issue. Just see the effect of his view on the most sensitive issue in the Ayodhya case, namely, was a preexisting Hindu temple destroyed to make way for the mosque?
Even though he agrees that a massive broken Hindu structure was found under the mosque, Justice Khan does not agree that any Hindu structure was demolished to build the disputed mosque. But Justice Sharma is firm that a Hindu temple was indeed demolished to build the mosque. Justice Agarwal analyses the evidence over some 900 pages (from 3513 to 4415) and after holding that a Hindu temple predated the mosque at the spot, he says, on evidence, that “it can safely be said that the erstwhile structure was a Hindu temple and it was demolished, whereafter the disputed structure was raised” (p4415). This makes it the Court’s view. But, having held that a Hindu temple existed before the mosque was constructed, Justice Agarwal was not keen to pursue the demolition issue. But he does. Why? Read on.
He was compelled to do so by the lies of the experts relied upon by the Muslim parties. Prefacing that, for the purposes of the case, it was “sufficient” to stop at finding “that the mosque had been raised” on a pre-existing “massive temple”, Justice Agarwal writes [at p4333], “it would not have been necessary to tell positively that there existed a massive temple structure, which was demolished and thereafter the disputed structure was raised”.
He then explains why he did that thus: the statement of so many experts appearing on behalf of the plaintiffs (Sunni Waqf Board) asserting that “temples in past were never demolished by then Muslim rulers or invaders from Persia etc, is so blatant a lie” that he was “reluctant to ignore it without referring to some well-known historical” account of the demolition of Hindu temples, some “written by Muslim writers themselves.”
Only after that, considering (from p4333 to p4415) the massive evidence about destroying temples, including at Ayodhya, Justice Agarwal concluded that a Hindu temple was indeed destroyed to build the mosque. Yet the visual media kept insisting throughout Sept 30 that the Court had indeed held that “no temple was destroyed to build the mosque”. So, till now, the people do not know the truth that Justice Agarwal has found; they only believe as true the lie that the media has telecast.
The critical evidence that became one of the most contentious issues between the Hindu parties and the Muslims parties in the court was the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) Report which established that a massive structure “indicative of the remains which are distinctive features” of “the temples of North India” existed under the mosque.
The first point to note was that the ASI was brought in by the court on its own in 2002, not by any party or the government. The ASI did the GPR survey and excavation under the orders of the court and under supervision by two judicial officers appointed by the court, in the presence of the counsel for the parties.
But the most disgusting part of this critical exercise, the importance of which to the case is brilliantly captured by Justice Agarwal (p3869-4333), was the way the Muslim parties attacked the ASI work in court, including on the ground that the BJP was ruling then, and that the ASI team did not include sufficient number of Muslims in the excavation work. This led to the court chiding them for suffixing experts with “Muslim”, “Hindu” or “Christian” (Justice Agarwal p230). But now, after the verdict, the secularists attack the court for relying on the ASI report in almost the same language the Muslim parties used to attack the ASI prior to the verdict!
But the otherwise well-conceived and best-written judgment badly slipped, in law and in judicial wisdom, on the division of the disputed site.