The Centre moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday on the Ayodhya land dispute, seeking the top court’s permission to return all excess acquired land at the site to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, India Today reported.

According to Live Law, the government has filed an interlocutory application seeking modification of the court’s March 2003 judgement to restore the surplus land, which is not part of the dispute, to the trust, which was formed to promote and oversee the construction of a Ram temple.

In 2003, the court had barred religious activity of any kind on 67.703 acres of land located in revenue plot numbers 159 and 160 in the village of Kot Ramchandra that is “vested in the central government”.

The government’s petition on Tuesday said that only 0.313 acres of the entire 2.77 acre premises was disputed, PTI reported.

“Furthermore, no part of the aforesaid land shall be handed over by the government to anyone and the same shall be retained by the government till the disposal of this writ petition nor shall any part of this land be permitted to be occupied or used for any religious purpose or in connection therewith,” it had added.

The case, which was scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, was deferred on Sunday due to the non-availability of Justice SA Bobde on the five-member Constitution Bench. A new date for the hearing has not yet been announced.

Last week, the Supreme Court had reconstituted the bench. An earlier hearing on January 10 was adjourned after Justice UU Lalit recused himself from the matter.

Meanwhile, an unidentified lawyer representing a Muslim body in the dispute matter described the Centre’s petition as a “political stunt”, PTI reported.

‘The right direction’

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad welcomed the Centre’s decision, PTI reported. “This land belongs to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and is not under any litigation,” said the Hindutva outfit’s International Working President Alok Kumar. “This is a step in the right direction and we welcome it.”

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy said there was “already a Ram Mandir standing on the RJB [Ram Janmabhoomi but it is in a tent”. Till the title suit is decided, all other parts of the temple can be built, he added. “Then thereafter we will construct the sanctum sanctorum.”