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Out-of-court settlement for Babri Masjid impractical: Soli Sorabjee

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 21 August 2017, 19:50 IST

Even as politicians and some organisations talk of the possibility of an out-of-court settlement of the contentious Babri Masjid dispute, jurist Soli Sorabjee says he is against the idea as it is impractical and that that the apex court, which is hearing the matter, should take a decision.

Talks of an out-of-court settlement have been doing the rounds since Supreme Court Chief Justice JS Khehar made an observation on how he could mediate such a settlement, something which was rejected by the Babri Masjid Action Committee, a group of Muslim individuals and organisations fighting the case.

However, the case has been more muddied since the Shia Waqf Board threw its hat into the ring, claiming that it is the rightful caretaker of the mosque which was demolished by a mob on 6 December 1992. The Shia Board seeks to contest the 1946 Faizabad court verdict which ruled in the Sunni Board’s favour on the grounds that Mir Baqi, who constructed the mosque, was a Shia and that all subsequent caretakers of the mosque have been Shias.

“He [Justice Khehar] meant well, but the issues involved in Babri Masjid can’t be settled. They won’t have the same credibility and force and a binding nature on the parties,” Sorabjee says. “There must be a court decision in the matter of such nature,” he says.

Sorabjee says a settlement would be an exercise in futility. “What would a settlement do? It is not practical. It won’t command the confidence of the people. After all, the judicial verdict is there people have to follow,” he says.

While politicians like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath welcomed the talks of an out of court settlement, other like Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM, and the Babri Masjid Action Committee opposed the idea. Owaisi says it is a title suit and that the court needs to decide on it.

The Shia Waqf Board's intervention in the case, and its assertion that it is ready for an out-of-court settlement where the mosque can be built elsewhere in some Muslim dominated locality outside Ayodhya, has further added another layer to the matter. Opinion within the Muslim camp now stands divided. Expectedly, the Shia Waqf Board’s intervention has had the Sunnis up in arms.

“There will be hundred things in settlements, take it here, take it there. It is not practical. It was well meant,” Sorabjee says.

Judicial overreach

Meanwhile, the former attorney general did not seem to be very happy on how the courts are coming up with their definitions of patriotism. Commenting on the recent order of the Madras High Court, where the judges in order to “instil a sense of patriotism in each and every citizen of the State”, made the singing of Vande Mataram compulsory at least once a week in all schools, colleges, universities, Sorabjee says “it is judicial overreach.”

The 87-year-old, who was conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 2002, says “You cannot prove your patriotism by singing Vande Matram. That will come from the heart. You cannot legislate patriotism.”

Sorabjee explains that when the judge made those observations, the idea was to make people feel the glory of the motherland. “But that is a fundamental duty under Article 51 (A). But that is for the citizens. What if there are non-citizens? That was taking it too far,” he says of the Madras High Court judges.

With the Supreme Court days away from coming to a decision about whether privacy is a fundamental right, Sorabjee says “Privacy is of course a fundamental right. But like all fundamental rights, it is not absolute - there have to be certain restrictions.”

He, however, says privacy has to be subordinate to national interest in some cases. Therefore, it is a fundamental right which can be restricted reasonably in public interest and And that “whether the restrictions are in public interest can be decided on a case to case basis.”

First published: 21 August 2017, 19:50 IST