New Delhi: The Centre’s interlocutory application in Supreme Court seeking a modification of its 2003 verdict to restore the surplus land, which is not part of the dispute, to the trust (which was formed to promote and oversee the construction of Ram Mandir), triggered ripples in the political circle, raising question on the timing of the petition, barely months before the Lok Sabha elections.

While the Congress party questioned the timing of the plea, the CPI(M) claimed that the government’s move was aimed at appeasing the Sangh Parivar ahead of the general polls. “People will decide on the intent of its “sudden” move which has come merely a couple of months before the Lok Sabha elections,” the grand old party said.

Meanwhile, CPI(M)’s politburo said it was a “devious” effort on the part of the government to “pre-empt” the decision of the Supreme Court. “The politburo of CPI(M) expresses its strong disapproval of the petition moved by the central government in the Supreme Court to remove the status quo in the non-disputed land that it had acquired in Ayodhya. It wants to handover the land to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas that has been set up by VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) to undertake the construction of the Ram temple at the site,” it added.

Terming the Centre’s move as an ‘insidious attempt’, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen(AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi called it an “another example of bringing the Political fight of the Central Government in the Court Room.”

Taking to micro-blogging site Twitter, Owaisi said, “This insidious attempt by the Central Government should not be ignored. They are trying everything in their capacity to prevent a fair and independent adjudication of the Babri Masjid dispute.”

Notably, the apex court was supposed to hear the Ayodhya title suit case on January 29 but it got cancelled following the unavailability of one of the members of the five-judge Constitution bench.

“Justice S.A. Bobde will not be available on January 29 due to which sitting of the Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi stands cancelled”, a notice issued by the Supreme Court registry had informed.

Meanwhile, making a big move amid the growing clamour for bringing law of the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Centre filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking permission to return all excess land at the disputed site. In a fresh plea, the Centre said it had acquired 67 acres of land around the 2.77 acres disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site.

The plea has said that the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (a trust to promote construction of Ram Temple) had sought the return of excess land acquired in 1991 to original owners.

Earlier, the apex court had ordered that the status quo be maintained with regard to the acquired 67 acres of land around the disputed site. The central government in 1991 had acquired 67-acre land around the disputed site.

‘Centre’s Move a Step Towards Building The Ram Mandir’

Contrary to Opposition parties,  BJP leaders sought to present the Centre’s move to return undisputed land in Ayodhya to its original owners, including Ram Janambhoomi Nyas, as a step towards starting ‘work’ on building a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Speaking to reporters, a ruling party leader asserted that the government’s plea in the Supreme Court is an attempt to redress the “deep sense of anguish of Ram devotees and the BJP cadres”.

Echoing similar sentiments, senior BJP leader and Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that the Nyas, a trust which is among the largest original owners of the undisputed land that the government had acquired and has offered to return, wants a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. He indicated that the government’s plea in the Supreme Court to return excess land around the disputed site to its original owners could pave the way for construction of the Ram temple.

“Today the government has taken a very important in-principle decision to return the excess land, which was acquired in 1994, to the original landowners. Out of 67 acres of undisputed land, the landowner for 42 acres is the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas. The government wants to return the land to its original owners and they want to build the Ram temple there,” Javadekar said while addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in the national capital.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a prominent Hindutva face of the party, also hailed the government’s move and hoped permission would be granted to start work on the undisputed land. “We welcome this initiative of the Central government. We should get permission to start work on the undisputed piece of land,” he said in Prayagraj.

VHP, Sena Welcome The Move

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad welcomed the move, saying the step was in the right direction. “This land belongs to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and is not under any litigation. This is a step in the right direction and we welcome it,” VHP’s international working president Alok Kumar said.

Shiv Sena, which has been attacking the BJP government at the Centre to being a law for temple’s construction, also reportedly welcomed the move.

AIMPLB to Oppose Centre’s Move

Zafaryab Jilani, a member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), has said that the apex court had ordered status quo and if the Union government does anything in contravention, he will challenge it in the Supreme Court.  Talking to news agency IANS, the convener of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) said.”So far an application has been moved by the Centre and the court is still to take cognisance. In case it does, we will file an objection”.

“We will also challenge the government’s move as the government cannot take sides on such issues. It can be an agenda of a political party, but not of a government,” he said emphatically while adding that by all logical and legal standards, the application has no basis.