New Delhi:AConstitution Bench of the Supreme Court onSaturdaypermittedtheconstruction of a temple at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood, and asked the government to allot a “prominent and suitable” five-acre plot for Muslimstoconstructamosque in Ayodhya. In a unanimous judgment, a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked the Centre, which had acquiredtheentire67.73acres of land including the 2.77 acre o f th e d i s p u te d Ramjanmabhumi-BabriMasjid premises in1993,toformulate a scheme within three months and set up a trust to manage the property and construct a temple. Forthetimebeing,thepossession of the disputed propertywouldcontinuetovestwith the Centre until a notification is issued by it investing the property in the trust. The Bench also directed that the Sunni Central Waqf Board should be given a fiveacre plot, either by the Centre from within its acquired area, or by the Uttar Pradesh government “at a suitable, prominent place in Ayodhya”. The Board would be at liberty to constructamosquethere.This should be done simultaneously with the transfer of the property totheproposedtrust. The judges declared that the demolition of the 16th centuryBabriMasjidonDecember 6,1992,was“anegregiousviolation of the rule of law” and “a calculated act of destroying aplaceofpublicworship”.The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over450yearsago,theBench said. The Court referred to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions)Act of 1991,which prohibits the conversion of the status any place of worship, to say that all religions are equal. “The Constitution does notmakeadistinctionbetween the faith and belief of one religion and another. All forms of belief, worship and prayer are equal,” Chief Justice Gogoi said,readingexcerptsfromthe judgment for the Bench, also comprising Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer. The court concluded that the Muslimswere ousted from the 1500 square yards of the mosque through acts of damage during communal riots in 1934, desecration in the intervening night of December 22- 23 of 1949 when idols were place inside the mosque, and finally, the demolition of the mosque in 1992. “This court in the exercise of its powers underArticle 142 oftheConstitutionmustensure that a wrong committed must beremedied.Justicewouldnot prevail iftheCourtweretooverlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprivedofthestructureofthe mosquethroughmeanswhich s h o u l d n o t h a v e b e e n employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law,” Chief Justice Gogoi read out from the judgment. The Supreme Court said the Allahabad High Court’s remedy of a three-way bifurcation of the disputed premises among the Ayodhya deity, Sri Bhagwan Ram Virajman, NirmohiAkhara and theSunni Central Waqf Board “defied logic”. It did not “secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquillity”. The judgment nevertheless concluded that the Sunni Central Waqf Board was unable to prove its claim of exclusive title and continuous possession of the disputed site. “TheMuslimshaveoffered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century,” the court observed. On the other hand, the court held there was both oral and documentary evidence to support the Hindus’ faith that the Janma Asthan was locatedwheretheBabriMasjidwas constructed. It was beyond the ken of the court to probe whether thisbeliefwas justified. Judges cannotindulgeintheology,but restrictthemselvestoevidence and balance of probabilities. The court said there was proof of extensive worship offered by the Hindus, especially in the outer courtyard where the Ram Chabutra and Sita Rasoi are located, even before the annexation of the Oudh by the British in 1857. TheHindus’possessionofthe outer courtyard has been established. Besides, the Supreme Court accepted the version of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) that the mosque was not constructed on a vacant land.TheASI had suggested the remains of a large pre-existing structure underneaththeBabrimosquewhich was “non-Islamic” in nature. TheASI had said the artefacts collected from the dig and the pillars of the mosque were of a non-Islamic origin. The court dismissed the Akhara’s petition as timebarred. and rejected its suit claimingshebaiti(managerialrights) overtheproperty.However,the courtinvokeditsextraordinary powers toask thegovernment to give Nirmohi Akhara, considering the sect’s historical presence at the disputed site, to provide it with an “appropriateroleinthemanagement” of the property.