Nirmohi Akhara, one of the litigants in the Ayodhya case, moved the Supreme Court Tuesday opposing the Centre's plea which seeks to return to the original owners the 67.390 acre of "non-disputed" land it had acquired around the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site.
The Allahabad High Court in 2010 had decided that the 2.77-acre of disputed land at the site would be divided into three equal parts and will be handed over to -- Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Waqf Board, and Ram Lalla.
The Nirmohi Akhara, in its fresh plea, has opposed the Centre's application by which it had sought modification of the Supreme Court's 2003 order so as to allow it to return to original owners the 67.390 acre of "non-disputed" acquired land around the disputed site.
The application has said that the Centre has proposed returning of acquired land to Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN) and that there are many temples on the acquired land and their rights would be affected if the land is returned to one party.
The apex court recently appointed mediators to find an amicable solution to the vexatious land dispute.
The 0.313 acre plot, on which the disputed structure stood before it was demolished by the 'kar sevaks' on December 6, 1992, was within the 2.77 acre disputed premises, the Centre's plea said.
The government had acquired 67.703 acre, including the 2.77 acre, through a legislation in 1993. The RJN is the owner of as much as 42 acre of the acquired non-disputed land.
The plea said the RJN (a trust to promote construction of Ram Temple) had sought return of excess land acquired in 1991 to original owners.
"One party namely RJN whose land measuring approximately 42 acres [which is a part of the superfluous/excess land] was acquired, has moved an application relying on the constitution bench judgment of this court," the plea had said.
The Centre said in its plea that it has no objection in returning the land to its actual owners.
"The Central Government has no objection in principle if the superfluous land is restored to RJN as well as other owners after determining the extent of land required for proper access to and enjoyment of rights in the disputed area by preparing a plan map.
"The applicant (Centre) is filing this application seeking permission of this court to permit the applicant to fulfil the duty to revert/restore/hand over the excess/superfluous land acquired under the Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993," it said.
The Modi government, in its 33-page application, had sought modification of the apex court order of March 31, 2003 by which the Central government was directed to maintain the "status quo" with regard to entire land including the non-disputed acquired plots.
It had said that modification would enable it to determine "the exact extent of land required from out of the superfluous/ excess land to ensure that the successful party in the dispute pending regarding the 'disputed land' can have proper access to and enjoyment of rights in the disputed land".
The plea had said the 2003 order asking the Centre to maintain the status quo (existing state of affairs) with regard to non-disputed acquired land was to be maintained till the Allahabad High Court decided the title dispute only.
Referring to the 2003 order which had restrained the Centre to deal in any manner with the acquired land, its plea said that the direction should have confined itself to the disputed land only.
Buttressing its plea for returning land to real owners, the Centre referred to the Supreme Court's verdict in the 1994 Ismail Faruqui case and said, "the interest claimed by Muslims was only over the disputed site of 0.313 acres where the disputed structure stood before the its demolition".
"The remaining entire property acquired under the Act of 1993 is such over which no title is claimed by Muslims. A large part of the remaining superfluous land comprises of properties of which the title is not even in dispute," it said.
The plea said the apex court had observed in the 1994 verdict that it was the duty of the Centre to restore superfluous land to the owners if it is determined that either whole or any part was not necessary to achieve the purpose of acquisition.