A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi delivered the judgement in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute at 10:30 am on Saturday.
The Supreme Court in a unanimous verdict cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.
The apex court put an end to the more than a century old dispute that has torn the social fabric of the nation.
The apex court said the mosque should be constructed at a "prominent site" and a trust should be formed within three months for the construction of the temple at the site many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born.
How important is the verdict?
The demolition of Babri masjid by Sangh Parivar-led Kar Sevaks on December 6, 1992 had sparked communal riots across the country and dented India's image in the global stage. The legal battle has been going on in various courts for the last 27 years. Everyone hopes that Supreme Court verdict will put an end to the controversy.
The Supreme Court began to hear the petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court that ordered to partition the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya on August 6. The testimonies in the appeals ran into 54 volumes. The 13,426-page document has been translated into English. There are a total of 533 exhibits translated by various parties.
Who are the parties to the dispute?
Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla are the parties to the dispute. Nirmohi Akhara is a denomination of Ram-worshipping sadhus, which represents the Hindu side. Ram Lalla, or infant Ram, is another party to the dispute. Sunni Waqf Board is the litigant on the Muslim side.
What are their claims?
Nirmohi Akhara claims historical worship rights over the shrine. Ram Lalla (infant Ram) was represented in court by Devaki Nandan Agarwal. Sunni Waqf Board claims full possession of the title.
Though all parties — Hindu and Muslim — have called for peace ahead of the verdict, security measures across the country are at an all-time high. Elaborate security arrangements were made across the country ahead of the Supreme Court judgement in the communally sensitive case, while the temple town remained on the edge and political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and religious leaders urged people to maintain peace and respect the verdict.
Authorities said social media posts would be monitored to ensure that no attempt is made to vitiate the atmosphere by spreading fake or inflammatory content. Arrangements have also been made to ensure the safety and security of religious places across the country.
On Friday morning, Chief Justice Gogoi held an hour-long meeting with Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Rajendra Kumar Tiwari and Director General of Police Om Prakash Singh, who apprised him about the security arrangements made to maintain law and order in the state.
A multi-layered security has been put in place in the temple town of Ayodhya, turning it into a fortress with deployment of 60 companies (90-125 personnel each) of PAC and paramilitary forces. Vehicle checking has been intensified near the Ramjanmabhoomi police station, "karyashala" of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and other parts of the town.
The Delhi government has advised all private schools to remain closed on November 9 as a precautionary measure. The Madhya Pradesh government has declared a holiday for all educational institutes in the state on Saturday. Police have been put on alert in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra. In Mumbai, police have issued prohibitory orders against gathering of five or more persons till November 18.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot directed senior police officers to ensure law and order in the state. He asked the officers to make additional deployment in sensitive areas. In the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC have been issued, banning assembly of more than four people.
Schools and colleges in the UT have been ordered shut on Saturday and all examinations scheduled for November 9 have been postponed. The Karnataka government on Friday declared that all schools and colleges in the state will remain closed on November 9 in view of the Supreme Court verdict in the Ayodhya land dispute case.
A cross-section of people in Ayodhya said they want to move on and leave the past behind. Shiv Sakal, who lives near Badhi Devkali bypass in Ayodhya, said, "I sincerely pray to Lord Ram that this dispute be resolved at earliest, so that the element of uncertainty is gone from our minds once and for all.
"Many of my relatives who live in Bundelkhand are sceptical of coming to Ayodhya and say that they will come here only after the Supreme Court judgement is delivered," he said.
(With PTI inputs)