A petitioner in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case on Friday told the Supreme Court that the mosque had a unique place in Islam and its religious significance did not diminish because it was destroyed, The Indian Express reported.

Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, who appeared for petitioner Ejaz Maqbool, emphasised in his submissions the need to revisit the judgement in the Ismail Farooqui case of 1994, in which a five-judge Constitution bench had ruled that a mosque “is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”. In that case, the petitioner had challenged the constitutional validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act of 1993, under which 67.703 acres were acquired in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex in Ayodhya.

“I went through the Quran and Hadith...They say a mosque is a mosque forever,” Dhavan told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer. “You cannot say that a mosque has no unique place. It is unique to that community. You can destroy a mosque, but you cannot rob it of its religious significance.”

Dhavan agreed with Justice Bhushan’s statement that the Farooqui judgement said places of worship of all religions could be acquired, but argued that it did not seem right to tell Muslims “that a mosque built by them has lost significance”. The lawyer pointed out that the ruling said a mosque could be acquired for a larger national purpose. “Is the larger national purpose Ram Janmabhoomi?” he questioned. “Is the larger national purpose the political agenda of the government or what is stated in the white paper of the BJP?”

He lawyer brought up a 2002 judgement that referred to religious syncretism in India, India Legal reported. He pointed out how Indians of different ethnic backgrounds and religions were referred to as slabs of marble in a huge mosaic. If one slab disappears, then the entire mosaic will also be gone, the lawyer argued. “What constitutes the essential part of religion should be protected,” Dhavan said. “Religious practice should be protected.”

Justice Bhushan, however, said the acquisition of land should not be called anti-secular “because it was for both Hindus and Muslims”.

Senior counsel K Parasharan, who appeared for a Hindu petitioner, said the points Dhavan had raised had already been used before to question the acquisition of the land. He wondered why the lawyer was raising them again since he was not challenging the land acquisition itself.

Chief Justice Misra said he found nothing wrong with the 1994 judgement and rejected Dhavan’s plea to have the verdict reviewed by a larger bench. However, the Supreme Court said that if it disagreed with the verdict, it would ask a larger bench to look at the limited “principle” contained in certain paragraphs that Dhavan had objected to.

The court scheduled the next hearing for April 6.