New Delhi: In a historic development, the Supreme Court on Saturday delivered a unanimous verdict in the Ayodhya land dispute case, dismissing Shia Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara’s respective claims to ownership of the disputed 2.77-acre site, thereby granting its ownership to Ram Lalla Virajman and paving the way for the construction of a Ram Mandir there.

The top court also ruled that the Muslims be given an alternate 5-acre plot of land. The verdict, however, came as a major setback to the Nirmohi Akhara, the apex court dismissed its ownership claims completely, ruling that it was not a ‘shebait’ or devotee of the deity Ram Lalla.

The apex court also ordered the Centre to set up a trust in three months to oversee the construction of the Ram Temple at the site. The judgement, which lasted 30 minutes and was read by the CJI, also ruled that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), had been able to establish that a temple structure lied beneath the Babri Mosque, which was razed by right-wing activists on December 6, 1992.

The verdict came a day after Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, who is heading the 5-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court which held hearings in the case, was briefed by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and Director-General of Police (DGP) over security preparedness in the state. Also present during the briefing were CJI-designate SA Bobde and Justice Ashok Bhushan, both of whom are also members of the said bench.

Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice SA Nazeer were the two other members of the 5-judge bench.

The top court judgement came amid heightened security across the country. While educational institutes in various states, including Uttar Pradesh, have been closed till November 11, Ayodhya, which is the epicentre of the entire issue, was turned into a fortress. Section 144 was been put in place across Uttar Pradesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, appealed for peace, saying that the issue was not ‘a matter of victory or loss.’ Appeals for peace and respect for the top court, whichever way it goes, were also made by various top politicians, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and religious leaders from both sides.

The day-to-day hearings in the case started on August 6. The top court concluded its hearings and reserved its verdict on October 16.