The recent judgement of Supreme Court on Ajodhya land dispute has once again put the nation in a dilemma. The law has entitled the courts to adjudicate disputes, not to advocate for an out of court settlement. But the Supreme Court has done exactly that. Instead of going in to the merits of the case, it simply passed on the buck to others. The court is supposed to deliver its verdict without any ambiguity and without being bothered about who is pleased and who is aggrieved. In case of Ajodhya, it seems that the Supreme Court has made no efforts to follow this very basic principle of judiciary.
So the question that needs to be answered is what as a nation should we follow –the rule of law or beliefs and traditions practiced for years. It is expected that in a modern world rule of law should always prevail over everything else. The most suitable example is the recent Sabarimala judgement. For ages, women were barred from entering the temple. The ban was imposed based on some superstitions. The court verdict has rightly refused to give any credence to such superstitions and allowed women to enter the temple. Though there were protests against the verdict, after many years women have finally been able to enter Sabarimala. Like Sabarimala, few years back the Supreme Court delivered the landmark judgement in Shahbanoo case. The court expressed the opinion that Muslim women too have the right to get compensation from her estranged husband. Unfortunately, the then government led by Rajiv Gandhi overruled the verdict by passing a law in the Parliament courtesy the huge mandate he received in the aftermath of the tragic death of his mother and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. There are few other instances too. Court orders have helped women and Dalits to enter many temples in the country. At the same time women are now entitled to enter the famous Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai, through a court order.
So, it would have been better if the Supreme Court gives a clear verdict about who owns the disputed land in Ajodhya. It should be mentioned that no one is against and out of court settlement of the dispute. As a matter of fact, several efforts were made earlier. Sometimes, government had initiated the process, sometimes peace loving people came out on their own to settle the dispute amicably. Former Chief Justice J. S. Kehar too mooted a proposal to mediate between the two warring sides. But all such efforts turned out to be futile.
It is not to presume the outcome of the mediation process to be initiated by the three-member committee nominated by the Supreme Court. But chronology of the dispute is preventing us from being hopeful about a negotiated settlement. Thus it would have been proper if the Supreme Court took the onus on itself in settling the matter once and for all. After all, no nation could make progress where faith prevail over rule of law. If as in the past faith continued to prevailed over law, Sati Pratha would have still been in existence. There was no need to bring a law to prevent the practice of Triple Talak. Sabarimala verdict shouldn’t have received such wide ranging support from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Clearly, it is not a verdict looking at the future; but to indulge the practice of living in the past.