The Centre on Tuesday made a big move in the Ayodhya matter, filing a petition in the Supreme Court seeking permission to return all excess acquired land at the Ram Janmabhoomi site.
The application reads that about 67 acres of land was acquired in all, over 25 years ago. Apart from the disputed land, which is about 0.313 acres, the rest can be returned to the owners.
What this means: The government has sought permission to return land that it has held for over two decades to the original owners. It contends that of the 67 acres of land in question, only 0.313 acres are disputed (currently being heard in the Supreme Court). A large portion of the 67 acres of land originally belonged to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a trust geared towards the construction of the Ram Mandir.
The government's petition comes on a day that the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the Ayodhya title suit case, though that is not to happen now owing to the non-availability of Justice Bobde due to medical reasons.
Speaking to Republic TV shortly after the newsbreak, BJP MP Dr Subramanian Swamy said that the petition was a move towards facilitating the construction of a Ram Mandir at the Ram Janmabhoomi site. Dr Swamy has over the last few months been imploring the government to hand over the land to the VHP to begin construction of the Ram Mandir, citing that the case being heard by the apex court is only about land and can be resolved by compensating the parties.
Senior BJP leader Ram Madhav has also tweeted about the petition, writing the following:
"Ayodhya dispute: Govt moves Supreme Court, demands excess land be returned to owners. A much awaited move. 42 acres around d shrine belonged to Ram JanmBhumi Nyas. Court shd allow its return 2 them. Least that cn b done in d face of inordinate delays in SC"
The latest delay in the Supreme Court's hearing of the matter sparked a renewed wave of calls for a Ram Mandir ordinance to be brought in by the government, though Union Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad did not provide any indications towards this when he spoke to reporters at some length about the topic. He did, however, put forth that the citizens of India want a Ram Mandir at the site and that it would be ideal if the Supreme Court resolved the matter at the earliest. He listed out other recent examples where proceedings were carried out and a verdict was delivered in a timely fashion, naming the Sabarimala verdict, the Adultery verdict and the dramatic over-night hearing over the controversial invitation given to BS Yeddyurappa to form a government in Karnataka following the assembly elections there earlier this year.
A five-judge CJI-led constitution bench of the Supreme Court was scheduled to have taken up the Ayodhya dispute starting January 10, but on that day, Justice UU Lalit recused himself from the case after senior counsel Rajeev Dhawan pointed out that he (Justice Lalit) had been a lawyer in a related case. PM Modi and Amit Shah have both reiterated that the Ram Mandir is a manifesto promise of the BJP-led government and they will make all efforts towards it, though only after the Supreme Court gives its verdict.