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Monday, Dec 09, 2019

Sacked from Ayodhya case, says Dhavan

Dhavan appeared for the Muslim parties, including the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind (JuH) that filed the first review petition on Monday, in the title dispute case. He said he was removed by JuH on the same day it filed the review plea challenging the apex court’s verdict.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2019 00:46 IST
Murali Krishnan
Murali Krishnan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Senior advocate  Rajeev Dhavan said on Tuesday that he had been sacked by a  prominent Muslim body that he represented before the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said on Tuesday that he had been sacked by a prominent Muslim body that he represented before the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case(Rajeev Dhavan/Facebook)
         

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said on Tuesday that he had been sacked by a prominent Muslim body that he represented before the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, even as it filed a review petition against the apex court’s verdict allowing the construction of a Ram temple on the site in Ayodhya.

Dhavan appeared for the Muslim parties, including the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind (JuH) that filed the first review petition on Monday, in the title dispute case. He said he was removed by JuH on the same day it filed the review plea challenging the apex court’s verdict.

Dhavan confirmed to HT that he had been removed from the case. He also said he had all but settled the draft of the review petition and was scheduled to meet JuH lawyers on Monday to finalise some details when he was informed of his removal.

“I was removed. I worked with Mr. Maqbool {Ejaz Maqbool, the advocate on record for JuH) in his chamber for ten days. I created the structure [of the review petition]. That structure was shared with other Muslim parties. The review petition needed to be tweaked. They wanted to file [review petition] on Monday. I had an appointment with them that very Monday so that it could be filed on Monday. At 10.14 AM, I was with the dentist for a routine appointment [when] Mr. Maqbool told me that I was no longer involved with the case. I asked him ‘is this a sacking?.’ He said there is nothing I can do about it”, Dhavan told HT.

According to people aware of the developments, Dhavan was unavailable on Monday to finalise the draft of the review petition. “Hence his [Dhavan] name was removed [from the petition],’’ one of the persons said on condition of anonymity

In a Facebook post, Dhavan rejected suggestions that he was unwell. He said he had been informed that JuH head Maulana Arshad Madani Madani had indicated that he was removed because of his health. “This is total nonsense. He has a right to instruct his lawyer... Ejaz Maqbool to sack me which he did on instructions. But the reason being floated is malicious and untrue,” Dhavan added.

Late in the evening, two individuals associated with the JuH claimed that Dhavan had not been sacked and that the controversy was the result of a misunderstanding. “Neither Jamiat nor advocate on record Ejaz Maqbool sacked senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan...we are indebted to Dhawan’s services,” said Shahid Nadeem, a legal adviser of the body.

A second statement signed by Gulzar Ahmed Azmi, the legal head of the Mumbai unit, said Dhavan remained their lawyer and said there had been a misunderstanding. Neither Dhawan nor JuH Maulana Arshad Madani were available for a comment.

In a letter dated December 2 to Maqbool, who filed the petition on the JuH’s behalf, Dhavan said that he accepted his sacking without demur and with humility and respect and in line with the norms of his profession.

“We were in agreement that the correct term was ‘sacked’ and you [Maqbool] explained you had no choice in the matter,’’ Dhavan wrote in the letter, a copy of which has been seen by HT.

On whether there was any misunderstanding or communication gap as far as his sacking was concerned, Dhavan told HT that there was no doubt that he had been removed.

“There is no misunderstanding as far as sacking is concerned because the moment I got back home, I wrote a letter to Mr. Maqbool telling him that the cause was greater than all of us. I also told him and reminded him that we had already worked on the review and I would have completed it. But there was no reply from him.”

On whether he would continue to appear for other Muslim parties who are involved in the case including the Sunni Central Waqf Board, Dhavan hinted that he might not as it could expand the obvious rift which had developed between the Muslim parties.

“When one party says no to you and the other party (on the same side) says yes, what will it appear like to the Muslim community which is consolidated on the issue. [They will feel] that Mr. Dhavan has expanded the rift by taking brief from one party while he was rejected by the other.”

Dhavan refused to comment on the Supreme Court judgment of November 9 which had awarded the land to Hindus but he maintained that “there cannot be peace without justice.”

Dhavan said it a privilege to be part of the case which he described as “cause lawyering.” “I believe minority rights should not be taken away and stamped on and I believe there is something called secularism in this country. So it was a cause lawyering case. It is always an opportunity to do cause lawyering case without fees.”

Dhavan also narrated the verbal affronts and jibes he had to face both inside and outside the court. “Somebody left a tin of excreta outside my house. They abused me in the court and outside the court. When I used to come [to court] after the lunch break, the Hindu lawyers used to say Jai Shri Ram. It was not that they were blessing me but they were trying to provoke me. My clerk was attacked outside the court. I have received so many death threats.”

Dhavan’s removal from the case will assume significance only if the Supreme Court decides to hear the review petition in an open court. Review petitions, except in cases involving death penalty, are usually decided in judges’ chambers and there is no oral hearing with lawyers making arguments.

Since the Supreme Court is yet to decide whether it will hear the review petitions in the Ayodhya case in open court, the role of a senior advocate, at this stage, would be limited to settling petitions and advising the parties on the course of action to be adopted.

The JuH filed the review plea saying complete justice can be done in the Ayodhya case only by ordering the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to rebuild the demolished Babri Masjid at the disputed site.

The petition claims that though the top court acknowledged several illegalities committed by the Hindu parties, particularly damaging the domes of the Babri Masjid in 1934, desecrating the 16th-century mosque in 1949, and finally demolishing it in 1992, it condoned those illegal acts by awarding the disputed site to the very party that based its claims on those illegal acts.

The plea runs into 217 pages and lists out 14 “errors” in the top court’s November 9 judgment. A five-judge bench gave the verdict awarding the title to the 2.77-acre disputed land to Ram Lalla Virajman, the child deity, and granted five acres of land to Muslim parties at an alternative site for the construction of a mosque.