The Supreme Court has done well to make it clear that it would consider the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case before it as "purely a land dispute". This means, the court would only decide the legality of the claims made on the 2.77 acres of land where the Babri Masjid once stood. The Allahabad high court ordered in 2010 that the land be partitioned among three parties - the Sunni Wakf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. The Supreme Court is now hearing appeals against the ruling, and the statement that it would not go into other aspects of the case makes the issue before the court clear. The court's assertion that it does not plan to hear the case on a day-to-day basis is also right and justified. It said it was unfair to fast-track one case when hundreds of other litigants were waiting for a decision on their cases.
This makes two things clear. One is that the court would restrict itself to the basic legal issue in the case, and the other is that it does not attach any special importance to the case. The dispute has over the past decades accumulated a heavy baggage of sentiments and passions, and politics, religion and social and communal equations have gotten mixed up with it. But these are ideas and constructions imposed on the dispute by those who want to make political or other kinds of use of it. It has even been linked to nationalism. But the court would only fail in its duty if it lost sight of the basic issue involved in the dispute. It is not its remit, and it is not competent, to judge other issues. It does not also have the legal tools for that. Even a decision on the ownership issue is not easy as the case is complicated, but it will necessarily have to be based on documents and records, and not on sentiments and faith. The parties to the case, and all others, should accept the decision of the court. This is the essential norm of the rule of law, which is central to the functioning of a democracy. There is no other acceptable method of resolution, as other means like negotiations and mediations have failed in the past.
The court also wisely rejected the demand for a daily hearing. The demand had got linked to the next Lok Sabha election, with some proposing that it would help the BJP government, assuming that the court's decision would be in favour of its position on the issue. The country should wait for the natural course of justice to run, not force it.