The Sunni Wakf Board on Wednesday told the Supreme Court it does not dispute the Nirmohi Akhara’s “shebait” rights, or rights as a devotee, at Ayodhya’s disputed site but this does not mean the land belongs to them.

The board’s advocate Rajeev Dhavan has been making arguments this week before a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. Wednesday was the 19th day of the hearings in the Ayodhya case. The bench, which also comprises SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, had heard Hindu parties until last week.

Justice Nazeer asked Dhavan if the board does not dispute the shebait rights for the Akhara. When Dhavan replied in the negative, Justice Bhushan asked him: “When you are not disputing the shebait rights, are you not accepting that part of the mosque was also temple?”

Dhavan asked: “Yes, maybe, but what part?”

Dhavan said the idols were in the outer courtyard of the site and Hindus were allowed to pray, but this did not mean Hindus had the title to the place. Justice DY Chandrachud then noted that the Muslim parties had claimed the title over the inner as well as outer courtyard, and the moment they conceded shebait rights, they would also give up part of their claim.

Dhavan then argued that the Nirmohi Akhara only had easement rights but no title. The Akahara has been asking for management rights of the outer courtyard, he claimed. “Our case is that in 1885, Akhara had sought enforcement of the right of prayer at ‘Ram Chabutra’ and not title over the property,” he said. “Technically, your lordships can say that some portion may be given.”

Before the hearing began, Dhavan told the bench about the attack on one of the main litigants, Iqbal Ansari, at his home in Ayodhya by two people on Tuesday. Ansari was saved by his security personnel from the attackers, who he claimed had threatened to kill him if he did not withdraw his case. The bench said it would look into the matter.

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