Supreme Court begins hearing in Ayodhya land dispute case
On January 27, the Supreme Court cancelled a scheduled January 29 hearing because justice Bobde was not available that day.Updated: Feb 26, 2019 10:43 IST
A Supreme Court Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Tuesday started hearing the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case. The new bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, is expected to fix a date to begin the hearings and prepare a schedule for them.
The five-judge bench was reconstituted after justice UU Lalit, on January 10, recused himself from hearing the matter after it was pointed out to him that he has in the past appeared in a contempt case related to the title suit. Justice NV Ramana was also replaced on the bench.
Justices Bhushan and Nazeer, who came in instead of justices Lalit and Ramana, were part of a bench headed by then CJI Dipak Misra that last year declined to refer an old judgment about whether a mosque is integral to Islam or not, to a larger bench.
On January 27, the Supreme Court cancelled a scheduled January 29 hearing because justice Bobde was not available that day.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against a 2010 Allahabad high court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally between three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhada and Ram Lalla, the child deity.
The Constitution Bench is also expected to hear a fresh petition filed by residents of Ayodhya, who have challenged the 1993 law by which the Centre acquired the 67.7 acres of land around the disputed site. The petition, filed by seven individuals, including two Lucknow-based lawyers claiming to be devotees of Ram Lalla, contends that Parliament had no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to a state.
The court will also hear a fresh application by the Union of India seeking the court’s nod to return the undisputed area, except the 0.313 acre plot where the demolished mosque stood until it was demolished by “kar sevaks” on December 6, 1992, to its rightful owners. According to the Centre, 42 acres of the acquired non-disputed land belonged to Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN).
It has sought modification of court’s 2003 order that while upholding the acquisition law had ordered status quo at the site.
The bench has already brought on record the magnitude of the case. CJI Gogoi has mentioned that 120 issues have been framed in the case and a total of 88 witnesses had been examined by subordinate courts.
The deposition of witnesses runs into 13,886 pages and 257 documents have been exhibited; and, as the judgement runs into 4,304 pages, the original records of the case are stored in 15 sealed trunks.
“The advantage or disadvantage for a political party or a group of parties can be imagined only if there is a judgment on the Ayodhya dispute. Mere hearing of the case doesn’t mean
anything for either the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] or its adversaries,” said Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).