Emotions and passions were high and finally the Supreme Court took into account, archaeology, history, law and religion before it delivered its final verdict in the Ayodhya case.

The final verdict read that the Ram Temple would be built on the disputed site, while the Muslims would get 5 acres of land at an alternate site. This brought an end to a long battle, which began in 1528 when the Babri Masjid was built by Mir Baqi, commander of Mughal emperor Babur.

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In its 1,045-page verdict, the Supreme Court made it clear that the title is not decided on the basis of faith or belief, but on evidence. While delivering the verdict, the court said that the faith of the Hindus that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram is undisputed. Another key point taken into account was that the Sunni Waqf Board had failed to establish possessory rights over the disputed property.

The decision on the title suit:

The law must stand apart from political contestations over history, ideology and religion and for a case that is replete with references to archaeological foundations, it must be remembered that it is the law that provides the edifice upon which our multicultural society rests, the court said.

The dispute in this case was over immovable property. The case is not decided on the basis of faith, but on evidence. In deciding the title to the disputed property, the court applies settled principles of evidence to adjudicate upon which party has established a claim to the immovable property, the court said.

The court noted that there was clear evidence that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded despite the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it, the Supreme Court held. 

With regard to the inner courtyard, the court said that there was evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims on the other hand offered no evidence that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the 16th century.

After the setting up of the grill-brick wall, the structure of the mosque continued to exist and there is evidence to indicate that namaz was offered within its precincts. The report of the Waqf Inspector of December 1949 indicates that Muslims were being obstructed in free and unimpeded access to mosque for the purposes of offering namaz. However, there is evidence to show that namaz was offered in the structure of the mosque and the last Friday namaz was on December 16, 1949. The exclusion of the Muslims from worship and possession took place on the intervening night between December 22/23, 1949 when the mosque was desecrated by the installation of Hindu idols. The ouster of the Muslims on that occasion was not through any lawful authority but through an act which was calculated to deprive them of their place of worship. After the proceedings under Section 145 of CrPC 1898 were initiated and a receiver was appointed following the attachment of the inner courtyard, worship of the Hindu idols was permitted. 

Impossible to accept possession:

The court took into account two perspectives while considering the applicability of Section 110 of the Evidence Act cited by the Sunni Waqf Board. The court said that in so far as the outer courtyard, it is impossible to accept on the basis of a preponderance of probabilities that the Muslims were in  possession. On the contrary, the establishment of Hindu places of worship in the outer courtyard clearly belies such a claim. 

Second, in so far as the inner courtyard is concerned, the claim of the Muslims must necessarily be assessed with reference to various time periods namely (i) prior to 1856; (ii) between 1856 and 1934; and (iii) after 1934. 

The Muslims' account of worship prior to 1856 is conspicuously silent as opposed to the accounts of worship being offered by the Hindus. Post the setting up of the wall and railing, it is evident that there were obstructions, which arose in the continued worship of the Muslims in the inner courtyard which is evidenced by numerous proceedings as well as by the riots of 1934. 

Yet, the manner in which the restoration of the mosque took place after the riots and the arrangements in particular for the services of the Pesh Imam indicate that the obstruction notwithstanding, some form of namaz continued to be offered in the mosque until December 16, 1949. 

While, as the Waqf inspector indicated, the process of namaz was being obstructed and the worshippers were harassed, there is no evidence to show the abandonment of the claims by the Muslims. In fact, the documentary and oral evidence indicates that Friday namaz was intermittently being offered until December 16, 1949. Though the claim of the Muslims over the inner courtyard was not abandoned, yet as the evidence indicates, this was a matter of contestation and dispute, the court held.

The ASI records:

The court took into account the recordings by the ASI as well. The ASI had revealed that there was a pre-existing underlying structure dating back to the 12th century. The structure has large dimensions that is evident from the fact that there were 85 pillar bases comprised in 17 rows of five pillar bases, the ASI said.

On a preponderance of probabilities, the archaeological findings on the nature of the underlying structure indicate it to be of Hindu religious origin, dating to twelfth century AD, the ASI said while adding that the mosque was constructed upon the foundation of the pre-existing structure. The construction of the mosque took place in such a way to obviate an independent foundation by utilising the walls of the pre-existing structure, the ASI had noted.

The foundation of the mosque was based on walls of a large pre-existing structure. The foundations of the mosque together with its architectural features are suggestive of a Hindu religious origin comparable to temple excavations in the region and pertaining to the era.

The Supreme Court said that the ASI report does not provide for the reason of destruction of the pre-existing structure. The pillars that were used in the construction of the mosque were black Kasauti stone pillars. ASI has found no evidence to show that these Kasauti pillars are relatable to the underlying pillar bases found during the course of excavation in the structure below the mosque, the court noted.

The court however made it clear that the ASI report states that there was a structure underneath the Bari Masjid, which cannot be dismissed as conjecture or just guess work. The court also junked the theory put forth that spoke about an Idgah under the disputed site. The Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land and there was an underlying structure that did exist. The findings of the ASI are beyond doubt and their findings cannot be negated, the court noted.

The faith of Hindus undisputed:

The court also noted that the faith of the Hindus that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram is undisputed. The court took into account the historic records of travellers to drive across this point.

The historic records of travellers such as Tieffenthaler and the account of Montgomery Martin in the eighteenth century indicate the existence of faith and belief of the Hindus that the disputed site was the birth place of Lord Ram.

The court said that the records showed identifiable places of offering worship by the Hindus including Sita Rasoi, Swargdwar and the Bedi (cradle) symbolising the birth of Lord Ram in and around the disputed site.

The court noted the prevalence of the practice of worship by pilgrims at the disputed site including by parikrama (circumambulation) and the presence of large congregations of devotees on the occasion of religious festivals.

Further, the historic records also showed the presence of worshippers and the existence of worship at the disputed site even prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British and the construction of a brick-grill wall in 1857, the court also noted.

The Janmasthan:

The Supreme Court concluded that the faith and belief of Hindus since prior to the construction of the mosque and subsequent thereto has always been that 

Janmasthan of Lord Ram is the place where Babri Mosque has been constructed, and this faith and belief are proved by documentary and oral evidence.

The three-dome structure was treated as birthplace of Lord Ram. People worship the three-dome structure, parikrama of the entire premises and this has been amply proved by oral evidences led in the suit, the five judge bench observed.

The court also noted that in all gazetteers published under authority of government categorically and unanimously state that at Janmasthan of Lord Ram, Babri Mosque was constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqi.

It is true that statements recorded in Gazette is not conclusive evidence but presumption of correctness of statements recorded, which have to be raised subject to being disproved by leading appropriate evidences. All Gazettes published by the Government authority repeats the same statement that Babri Mosque was constructed at the Janmasthan of Lord Ram. 

Further, the court said that the evidence noticed clearly supports the faith and belief of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the place where Babri Mosque has been constructed. The conclusion that place of birth of Lord Ram is the three- dome structure can, therefore, be reached, the bench said.

It was only during the British period that grilled wall was constructed dividing the walled premises of the mosque into inner courtyard and outer courtyard. Grilled iron wall was constructed to keep Hindus outside the grilled iron wall in the outer courtyard. In view of the construction of the iron wall, the worship and puja started in Ram Chabutra in the outer courtyard. Suit of 1885 was filed seeking permission to construct temple on the said Chabutra where worship was permitted by the British Authority, the bench noted. 

Faith and belief of the Hindus as depicted by the evidence on record clearly establish that the Hindus belief that at the birth place of Lord Ram, the mosque was constructed and three-dome structure is the birth place of Lord Ram. It cannot be said that Hindus were dividing the mosque premises by constructing an iron wall outside the three-dome structure to alter their faith and belief regarding the birth place of Lord Ram. The worship on the Ram Chabutra in the outer courtyard was symbolic worship of Lord Ram, who was believed to be born in the premises.