“We (the Supreme Court), are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final,” said American jurist and writer Robert H Jackson famously. Our own legendary jurist V R Krishna Iyer was so fond of this statement that he used to quote it often. November 9’s historic judgement of the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India on the Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi conundrum once again brings to mind the nature of justice in relation to the finality of legal dispensation.
The judgement has been generally accepted and even welcomed by the majority of the public and the political class. Even some Muslim organisations (apparently the aggrieved faction) have expressed a sense of relief in achieving a closure of sorts for this long-drawn legal battle. That this judgement can still be challenged and a review petition filed is not likely to alter the ground reality (no pun intended), considering the fact that this was a unanimous verdict by a five-member bench. However, many significant questions still remain unanswered.
The judgement, spread over a thousand pages, is very complex (complicated, some would argue). It makes it unequivocally clear that the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was “an egregious violation of the rule of law” as also “a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship.” But the honourable bench does not believe in righting this wrong by rebuilding the Masjid at the very site. Instead, the whole area of 2.77 acres will now be handed over to a trust for the construction of a Ram temple. Doesn’t this, one wonders, validate in a sense the very premise/motive of the ‘egregious violation of law’? After all, this is exactly what the VHP and other Hindutva groups have always wanted to do—demolish the masjid and build a temple instead. The first part was carried out in 1992. And now, 27 years later, it has become possible and legal to realise the second.