Ayodhya Verdict: Supreme Court Defers Hearing in Babri Masjid Case to February 8
The Supreme Court today decided to hear the civil appeals filed by various parties challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on February 8 next year. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S A Najeeb also asked the Advocates on Record of appeals to sit together and ensure that all the requisite documents are translated, filed and numbered before the apex court Registry.
The bench took serious note of the submission of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the parties, that the appeals be heard in July 2019 after completion of the next Lok Sabha polls as the atmosphere at present was not conducive. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, vehemently opposed contentions that the pleadings were not complete and asserted that everything has been complied with and the cases were ripe for hearing.
The Supreme Court has deferred the hearing in the case to February 8, 2018, after the petitioners asked for reasonable time to get all the relevant documents ready. The apex court said that this would be the last opportunity for the petitioners to get papers ready and no delays would be allowed after this.
Sunni Waqf Board, arguing for a postponement in the hearing till after 2019 general election, says the proceedings in the Babri case would span over the entire next year. The Supreme Court, however, says when original suit was finished in 90 days by the Allahabad High Court, why should it take longer here?
BJP, Congress spar over Kabil Sibal’s role in the case. He is advocating for the Sunni Waqf Board which wants hearing to be put off till 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “This is a ploy by the Congress to link the Ram Mandir issue with elections,” says BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao. Congress leader Brijesh Kalappa says Sibal is appearing for his client as a lawyer in the Supreme Court and that his role has nothing to do with the party.
Supreme Court rejects Sunni Waqf Board’s plea to hear the Ayodhya dispute case after 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Waqf Board, Babri Action Committee says it may boycott proceedings if hearing begins today. It wants the case to be heard by a five-judge or seven-judge Constitution bench. The Supreme Court questions why a title dispute should be heard by a seven-judge bench.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, an intervenor in the matter, had attempted to raise the issue of fundamental right of religion of the Hindus under Article 25 of the Constitution. Many of the original plantiffs and defendants in the matter, including Mohd Hashim, who was the first person to take the matter to the apex court, have died. A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Hourt, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had said the land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
In pursuance to the apex court’s earlier direction, the Yogi Adityanath government has submitted English translation of exhibits and documents likely to be relied upon, as these were in eight different languages. A battery of high profile lawyers, including senior advocates K Parasaran and CS Vaidyanathan and advocate Saurabh Shamsheri, will appear for Lord Ram Lalla, the deity, and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta will represent the Uttar Pradesh government. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Anoop George Chaudhari, Rajeev Dhavan and Sushil Jain will represent other parties including All India Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara.
Recently, a group of civil rights activists also moved the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the Ayodhya dispute and urged it to consider the issue saying it is not just a dispute over property but has several other aspects which would have far-reaching effects on the “secular fabric of the country”.
The Allahabad High Court had in 2010 ruled a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acre area at Ayodhya among the parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Lord Ram Lalla. A sect of Muslims, under the banner of Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, had earlier approached the court offering a solution that a mosque could be built in a Muslim-dominated area at a “reasonable distance” from the disputed site in Ayodhya. However, its intervention was opposed by the All India Sunni Waqf Board which had claimed that judicial adjudication between the two sects had already been done in 1946 by declaring the mosque, which was demolished on December 6, 1992, as one which belongs to the Sunnis.
The Supreme Court has commenced final hearing in the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, a day before the 25th anniversary of the demolition of medieval-era structure. A specially constituted bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer will hear a total of 13 appeals filed against the 2010 judgment of the Allahabad High Court in four civil suits.
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