India's Supreme Court has cleared the final hurdle to a verdict in a highly sensitive property dispute between Hindus and Muslims. Judges gave the nod to a regional court to issue a verdict expected within days. The dispute has sparked some of India's worst post-independence violence.
A high court in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh says it will issue a verdict on this coming Thursday in a decades-long case involving the site of a destroyed mosque in the city of Ayodhya.
That announcement came just moments after the Supreme Court in Delhi said it would no longer delay the court from ruling on the case, which has spent decades under adjudication.
Hindu groups allege the mosque was wrongly built centuries ago on the birthplace of Lord Rama, one of Hinduism's most revered deities. They say the mosque occupied land where a temple to Rama once stood.
The dispute reached a flashpoint in 1992 when Hindu extremists destroyed the mosque, igniting riots around the nation that killed more than 2,000 people. A ruling on which religious grouping owns the Ayodhya grounds was expected last week, but the Supreme Court intervened after a petitioner suggested an out-of-court settlement may be possible.
Both sides are now expressing agreement that only a legal verdict can move the case toward resolution.
Ravi Shankar Prasad is a senior leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which spearheaded the campaign to build the temple at the site of the mosque.
"Let us trust the innate maturity of the people of the country to take the judicial process with all the respect it deserves," he said.
The spokesman for India's ruling Congress Party, Janardan Dwivedi, called for calm before the court's verdict.
He tells Indians it is yours, mine and every citizen's duty in the country to maintain harmony and peace.
A massive security presence has been maintaining peace near the Ayodhya site as the case has entered its final stage. Tens of thousands of police are in the vicinity bracing for Thursday's verdict.