Ayodhya Judges Forgot That Justice Isn’t A Please-All-Show
The long-awaited, more than twenty years, Ayodhya Judgement is here. Before we dwell on the same, ever wondered why people go to the courts? Why they spend on lawyers, on their travels to court? After all, all they do is present arguments from each side which they could do before a sarpanch in a village or that old man in Khaap panchayat or a mutual friend — just anyone but the judge in a court. Why walk to a court? What is it that you expect from a court that you do not expect from other avenues. Why do we say we have to respect the decisions of the court? After all, the people giving verdicts are people like us too. They go through similar lives as we do. They breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat the same food. Why then do we expect them to deliver judgements on our problems and also respect their pronouncements? Is it because we believe that they are impartial, that they rely on facts and facts alone and not on emotions and beliefs and pressures of the society? That they will listen to all sides and then make their judgements based on all that they have heard? Understanding why we head to courts is very important. There are reasons why we do it. One of that reason is trust, to believe that justice would be done come whatever and whoever. That is why even a person belonging to a minority or lower caste goes to a judge belonging to the majority religion or upper-caste without any inhibition. They all go expecting a just verdict. In that count, the courts should not only provide justice but it should also be seen and felt that justice was being done.
Before heading straight to the Ayodhya verdict, do you remember that on 6 December 1992 a Mosque, an Islamic religious place called Babri Masjid was demolished by a crowd (they like to call themselves ‘kar-sevaks’)? You probably do but more like a GQ question that Amitabh Bachchan might ask in KBC, not like a fact that was so primordial for this case. In fact, the whole case and the popular conversation started from that demolition (although the first case was filed as far back as in 1855). Some also believe that multiple bomb blasts, religious riots etc were spiralled from this event as well. But forget that speculation (?). Do you know that in the violence that followed after this demolition some 2000 plus people lost their lives? Add to it the 900 from the Mumbai riots. Ah, the figures you might say. How many of us care to imagine that many bodies, brutally twisted, some even raped (again brutally) and worse? How many of us can imagine the things their families must have gone through? Actually, no. The good people who came with swords and fireballs were kind in most of the situations to burn the entire families. Even they had some heart you see. Don’t worry, I won’t go into minor details of the rape of pregnant women or people being burnt alive. Let us now move on. Wait, wait, wait. Do you remember the multiple cases of Muslim youth who would be picked up by different law enforcement agencies over terrorism charges, some even lifted straight from colleges and put into jail only to be released by courts. Now and then courts do deliver justice you see. That’s probably why minorities still go to them. But do you also know that they were released after spending twenty-five years in jail? Some after seventeen or eleven. Try to imagine if you can. How must that have felt like — for those in jail and to their families? “Why do these Mullahs and saabs pick guns? Look at other religions, how they live peacefully!” Sure sure there are also Hindus who had to rot in jail and then released after years in prisons with “not guilty” verdict. But have you tried to write the number of such cases side by side with the percentage of the population of both sides and also check under what pretext and suspicions and on the basis they were lifted from their homes or workplaces or colleges? You would see how both do not add up and clearly, there is a difference. Anyway, let us go to the verdict now. Shall we?
The Supreme Court delivered not just a unanimous judgement but also anonymous one (that’s a first I believe). The judgement itself is 1045 pages long. Warning: I have not read it myself. Nor have the people who wrote opinion pieces on the judgement day or the day after, probably even the ones who are giving gyaan on TV even today. Court mentioned few things which we all now know was part of that judgement, which is that the central place was once stood the masjid up until December 6, 1992, is now given to the Ram Mandir party, a temple is to be built there for which a trust is to be established (court said this), Masjid party is to be allocated 5 acre land (who will allocate and when is not known) in Ayodhya but this would nowhere be close to the disputed site (court did not use this specific line but given they have reserved around 67 acres for the temple, it is all but evident). That is the verdict. For a moment, close your eyes, try to be impartial, forget your religion and gods. Can you do it? Try. Think of the facts from demolition to this verdict. Is this the decision you will arrive at? Remember why courts exist and why people go to courts? Factor all that in. Do not let yourself be under any pressure — courts aren’t supposed to deliver any judgement under any influence or pressure. You are to say ‘meow’ in such a case. Judges recuse themselves in such scenarios where they are under pressure (think of all judges who recused in Bhima-Koregaon case) or if there is a conflict of interest (Justice Mishra apparently thinks otherwise). Let us see what other things did the court say. First, it said the placing of the idol of Ram Lalla in 1949 was illegal and amounts to desecration of the mosque. Second, the demolition of the mosque in 1992 was a negation of rule of law. I know what is scratching some readers’ mind? What about Babur? That Muslim ruler who destroyed a Hindu temple? Well, the court said who built it was insignificant and then it also refused to entertain the preposition that Mosque was built by demolishing the ancient Hindu temple or on ruins of Hindu temple. Here’s how Indian Express folks summed it in their podcast,
“Court does not say in as many words that it was a temple. In fact, they only say in one instance that underlying structure could have been a temple… with inscriptions in Devanagiri script… but categorically refuse to say whether the temple was destroyed to build Babri Masjid or built on ruins. They say the ASI evidence (which Hindu party used to claim Masjid was built on temple) is inconclusive.”
By the way, Parliament had passed a law in 1991 to protect and honour the religious character of places of worship as they obtained on August 15, 1947 — The day India, more precisely the Democratic Republic of India, came into being, the very day independent India was born.
You have more information now. Close your eyes again, be a devil’s advocate and imagine. Try. Does the final verdict make sense now? Remember your math classes on logic where ‘a’ lead to ‘b’ and ‘b’ lead to ‘c’ and therefore ‘a’ lead to ‘c’? And if anything contradicted then the whole final proof would fall off? Well, looks like none of the judges attended those classes. How else does saying placing of idols as illegal, saying demolition of mosque as illegal along with categorically declining to believe Masjid was built on temple sum up to arrive at a decision where you vindicate (as said by Advani, one of the men who led the kar sevaks to demolish the mosque in 1992) those who demolished that structure (the act that you call illegal)? They demanded to build a temple on that site and now you have given them the legal permission to do so despite saying what they did was wrong. This is like handing over the rape victim to her rapist after proving the rape charges and using strong words to describe how bad the act of raping was. Sorry to make such a comparison. Dear judges, if you are reading, stop writing that contempt notice. I already apologize but really?
A popular maxim from the English court says that “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” And dear lords, the Ayodhya Judgement for all its televised glory, does not provide a feeling of justice being done. Now some might say I’m disrespecting the verdict. Actually, I’m not. I have all the respect for our courts which they hardly deserve (Read Loya death and as recent as Mishra’s Reliance judgement — they call it Land Acquisition judgement — and conflict of interest charges — I would suggest people who’re interested to read to pick Arun Shourie’s wonderful book on fallacies of judiciary — “Anita Gets Bail”). I just refuse to accept this judgement blindly. I cannot accept something that does not fit into logic. Some judgements do not make sense to experts of the law but this one fails to make sense even to a layman like myself. A judgement should answer the questions and not raise more questions then what were present in the beginning when they began to deliberate.
That was long, wasn’t it?
Now forget all that. For a moment, think that everyone accepted this judgement including myself, what are the implications of this judgement? After all, we all know that our courts deliver judgements also by taking references from old judgements. One of the trivial and extraordinary features of this judgement is its basis on faith and belief. Now, this might blow some people’s mind. Remember what the court said about Masjid on top of temple argument? Well, the reason it gave to handover primary land to Hindu party was faith and belief; that Hindus for ages have believed that Ram was born there (they say in Ayodhya. Why then the Mosque be not built at its original site and temple be built anywhere else in Ayodhya like Masjid is now being told to? Unanswered.) The primary part of the judgement is based not on facts. Ram Mandir gets to be built, a grand one thanks to this judgement which was based on belief and faith. Not facts. Imagine this judgement had arrived before Child marriage and Sati were widely practised. Won’t people be able to argue taking reference of this judgement that Hindus have been believing in child marriages and Sati for ages so they be allowed to continue their practice; after all, it is their belief and faith? This judgement opens so much because we in India believe (and have faith) on so many weird stuff.
So this judgement in the long-run has not brought the closure but opened so much in so many ways that we are looking at something that no one currently can fathom. On top of it, to my mind, our court has lost further credibility, belief and faith in its functioning and authority as an apostle of justice. Pray tell us, if you do not belong to the majority who hold the reigns of power in almost every sphere, would you go to courts now? With what hope? Side fact: Judges now get plump government jobs the moment they retire from their judgeship. I’m not making that up.
All said and done, maintain peace. Have faith in the system. In courts, in executive, in the police, army and of course, in our dear politicians. Or so you are told to by the very people who once climbed on the chariot, who went on the stage or arranged the grand rath-yatra — all that culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid. The very people are now asking you, the victims of their acts, to maintain peace. Maintain peace you must though, however, agitated and disappointed you are, maintain peace you should for your life hangs on it, for they are also in power now. The police and army — the gunmen in all different colours — move on their directions now. And thanks to Aadhaar, they now know where you stay, who are you talking to, what are you talking and where are you buying your things from. Maintain peace, what else can you do anyway!
P.S. Few hours after the judgement was out, I wrote this on Social Media,
True & brave judgement would have been that which rebuked both parties, discomforted them both and given orders to build a secular structure probably a mammoth university that focused on studying theology, art and of course science. This isn’t a progressive judgement. That’s all. This judgement is not taking us forward. This judgement, to my mind at least, does not inspire confidence or respect in judiciary nor Indian secularism. Now keep calm, and get back to your work. Let those who fight over religion and religious structures quarrel - you find your peace. And ask your govt for things that will take your life forward. Ask them for hospitals, schools and universities, better roads and livable environment.
Not that I expected judges will do something so radical but I wished. But what I was pretty sure the judges will do was to come out with a judgement that I may agree or not, but the one that made logical sense. This one at least to me, makes no sense.