Supreme Court to hear Ayodhya title dispute on January 4
A bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will take up the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute case on January 4, according to the list of cases to be heard by the top court. The top court had put off hearing the temple case in October, turning down requests for early hearings from the Yogi Adityanath government and others.
In the October order, the Supreme Court had also indicated that it would take up the case in early January to constitute the bench that would hold hearings into the land dispute. This bench, then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had underlined, would decide when and how the court would hear the case.
The ruling had triggered a sharp reaction from groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – which had described the court ruling as an insult to the Hindu community.
This decision was seen to have opened the possibility that the court may not deliver its verdict before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections expected to be held around April-May.
The ruling BJP has been keen that the court quickly delivers its ruling on the 14 petitions challenging a 2010 Allahabad high court decision that trifurcated the disputed site in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya town between Hindus, Muslims and the representatives of the presiding deity, Ram Lalla, a petitioner.
Over the last few months, the Ayodhya dispute has returned to the political centre stage and had come up during campaigning for the five states that voted new governments this month.
Shiv Sena, the BJP’s bickering ally, has also been pushing for the construction of the temple in recent weeks, and frequently launches sharp attacks on the BJP for not enacting a law to build the temple. Like the one fired by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday when he, at a rally in western Maharashtra’s temple town Pandharpur, stressed that “Hindus were innocent, but not fools”.
Hours before the list of cases to be taken up by the Supreme Court when it reopens on January 2 was put out, Union education minister Prakash Javadekar had asserted that the BJP wanted the top court to deliver an early judgment. “Our wish is that there should be a daily hearing on that matter so that we have an early judgement,” he said responding to a question on the issue.
In September, the Supreme Court had declined to reconsider its observations in a 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam — an issue which had arisen during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute. In a 2:1 verdict, a three-judge bench headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra had said the civil suit would be decided on the basis of evidence and the previous verdict had no relevance to the matter.