Plea in SC against 1993 law on land acquisition near Ayodhya disputed site

NEW DELHI: A fresh plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the constitutional validity of the 1993 central law by which 67.703 acre land, including the disputed premises of Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, was acquired.

The plea, challenging legislative competence of Parliament to acquire religious land, has been filed a week after the Centre moved the apex court seeking modification in of its 2003 order and allow it to return to original owners the 67 acre of the “non-disputed” land around the disputed structure at Ayodhya.

The petition, filed by seven individuals including two Lucknow-based lawyers claiming to be devotees of Ram Lalla, has contended that Parliament has no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to the state. Moreover, it said, the state legislature has the exclusive power to make provisions relating to the management of affairs of religious institutions inside its territory.

The petitioners, including lawyers Shishir Chaturvedi and Sanjay Mishra, submitted that the Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993 Act infringes upon the right to religion of Hindus guaranteed and protected under Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution.

The plea has sought the court’s direction restraining the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government from interfering in “Puja, Darshan and performance of rituals at the places of worship situated within the land admeasuring 67.703 acres acquired under the Act particularly at the land belonging to Shri Ram Janm Bhoomi Nyas, Manas Bhavan, Sankat Mochan Mandir, Ram Janmasthan Temple, Janki Mahal and Katha Mandap”.

The petition contended that in view of the clear provision contained in Article 294 of the Constitution, the land and properties situated within the  Uttar Pradesh vested in the state government from the date of the enforcement of the Constitution.