The Uttar Pradesh government told the Supreme Court on Friday that Muslim groups were trying to delay the hearing in the Ayodhya case. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta claimed in court that there was “something inherently wrong” about the petition that a Constitution Bench should first decide the question whether “mosque as a place of prayer is an essential part of Islam”, The Hindu reported.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who represented the appellants, claimed that Islam would collapse if prayers were not allowed in mosques. “If the congregation part of Islam is taken away, a large part of Islam goes worthless,” he said, when asked about why mosques are essential.

M Siddiq, one of the original litigants of the Ayodhya case, who has died and is being represented by a legal heir, had objected to parts of a 1994 verdict which said that a mosque is not integral to prayers offered by Muslims, PTI reported. Muslim groups argued before the top court on Friday that the “sweeping observation” of the court in 1994 needed to be reconsidered.

But Mehta said that none of the appellants raised the matter of the essentiality of mosques to Islam when appeals were filed in the Supreme Court in 2010. “So why now?” he asked.

“Nobody is contesting the fact that mosques are essential to Islam,”a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer told Dhavan according to The Hindu. “The question is whether prayer in a mosque is an essential part of Islam.” The court set the next date of hearing for July 13.

The case

The Supreme Court is hearing petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 order for a three-way division of the land on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished in 1992 by Hindu karsevaks so that a Ram temple could be built in its place. The High Court had ruled that the land be divided equally between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Hindu organisation Nirmohi Akhara, and the deity Ram Lalla (infant Ram), represented by the Hindu Mahasabha.

While the Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice indicated in February that it wanted to deal with the case plainly as a land title suit, it nevertheless allowed arguments to be made on the question of referring the matter to a larger bench.