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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Ayodhya case:SC gives till Oct 18 for arguments

CJI wants to deliver a verdict before he retires in the month of November.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2019 01:23 IST
Ashok Bagriya
Ashok Bagriya
New Delhi
5-judge bench headed by CJI that is hearing the case  expressed hope that hearing of  the  land dispute case would be over by October 18.
5-judge bench headed by CJI that is hearing the case expressed hope that hearing of the land dispute case would be over by October 18. (HT FILE)

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi clearly wants to deliver a verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case before he retires on November 17 and the bench headed by him that is hearing the case articulated its willingness to work weekends to do so even as it gave the petitioners room to settle the case through mediation.

On Wednesday, the five-judge bench headed by him that is hearing the case expressed hope that the hearing of the land dispute case would be over by October 18, as indicated in the schedule given by Hindu and Muslim parties to the case.

“Let us make a joint effort to conclude the hearing by October 18. If need be, the court could sit on Saturdays and even extend hearing in the case daily by an hour,” said the bench.

That will give the judges just under a month to write their judgement.

As many as 14 appeals were filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad high court verdict, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre plot of disputed land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the representatives of Ram Lalla, the child deity.

A large section of Hindus believes the 16th century mosque, Babri Masjid, in Ayodhya was built over a temple dedicated to Hindu god Ram, whose birthplace is also considered to be at the site. A mob of thousands demolished the mosque in December 1992, triggering a cycle of violence and riots across India.

On Tuesday, the five-judge Supreme Court bench asked the Hindu and Muslim parties to the case to give it a tentative schedule of their arguments in the case.

The court also reopened the possibility of mediation after it was brought to its notice that some parties to the case had written to the three-member mediation panel appointed by the top court earlier this year to settle the dispute .

The court said, “The hearing of the appeals, which are at a very advanced stage, will continue without any interruption. If, in the meantime, the parties desire to settle the matter(s), including, by resorting to mediation by the earlier constituted mediation panel, they may do so and place the settlement before the court, if reached.”

“We also make it clear that the terms and the process of settlement including mediation, if resorted to, will abide by our earlier order dated March, 8, 2019, with regard to confidentiality,” the bench said.

Earlier this week, the three-member panel approached the top court with a request from two of the 16 parties to the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid land title dispute seeking that mediation efforts continue even as the constitution bench of the top court holds daily hearings in the title case.

In its application, the panel, comprising former apex court judge FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and mediator Sriram Panchu, told the court that it had received written requests from two parties— one from the Hindu side, Nirvani Akhara, and the second from the Sunni Waqf Board -- for resumption of mediation.

On Wednesday, the Constitution bench questioned lawyers for Muslim parties on their claim that Hindus have all along prayed only at the Ram Chabutra (platform) in the outer courtyard of the disputed site, and that an idol was put in the central dome only in 1949.

Justice DY Chandrachud asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing the Muslim parties, “Why is that the Ram Chabutra has become the focal point in this case? Why was Ram Chabutra set up at the same time as the railings [put up by the British in the 1850s after riots broke out between the Hindus and Muslims]? Did people think praying at the Ram Chabutra was akin to offering prayers to deity under the central dome? Why is the Ram Chabutra so close to the central dome?”

Dhavan replied, “It would be conjecture on the part of the judges to assume that Hindus went to the railings and prayed to a deity under the central dome. There is no contemporary evidence on record to suggest whether this happened out of animosity or faith. Till 1855, the only prayers by Hindus that took place at the disputed site was (at) Ram Chabutra.”

Dhavan cited statements of six witnesses saying that it was only in 1949 that the idol of Ram was installed under the central dome. The judges also said that the 1991 report by historians RS Sharma, M Athar Ali, DN Jha and Suraj Bhan relied on by the Muslim parties and which states that the disputed site wasn’t the birthplace of Ram was, at best “an opinion” . “At the highest, it would be an opinion,” justice DY Chandrachud said.

First Published: Sep 19, 2019 01:23 IST

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