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Congress intimidating Supreme Court in Ram temple case, says PM Modi

PM should show courage to directly criticise court, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

madhya pradesh elections Updated: Nov 25, 2018 23:48 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Alwar/Ayodhya/Nagpur
PM Modi,Ram temple,Congress
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public rally ahead of Madhya Pradesh assembly elections on Saturday.(PTI File)

The Congress tried to delay Supreme Court hearings in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute and even threatened the judiciary with impeachment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday — a day when the right-wing Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a massive rally supporting the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

At a poll rally in Rajasthan’s Alwar, Modi said Congress leaders attempted to defer hearings in the decades-old dispute because of the elections before and in 2019, accusing the opposition party of dragging the judiciary into politics and undermining judicial independence.

His comments came even as an estimated 50,000 supporters of the Ram temple gathered in Ayodhya for the VHP event and the Shiv Sena organised a programme in the Uttar Pradesh town to mount pressure on the government on the contentious issue, which featured in the 2014 election manifesto of the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“If a Supreme Court judge does not prepare the time table [for hearing cases] as per their [Congress’s] political intentions and wants to hear all to deliver justice on a serious and sensitive issue, such as Ayodhya, then the party’s lawyers, who are Rajya Sabha members, start the game of scaring the judges in the name of impeachment,” Modi said.

Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Kapil Sibal, who was the apparent target of Modi’s comments, said the Prime Minister was talking about Ayodhya to earn political capital in the election season.

“I have not appeared in the Supreme Court between January and November this year. When the matter came up before the court in October, the Chief Justice of India said this is not the priority. So, does the Prime Minister have the courage to make a statement against the judiciary?” he asked.

Seven opposition parties led by the Congress moved a notice for the impeachment of the previous Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, in April, accusing him of “misbehaviour” and “misuse” of authority in the administration of the court. Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu rejected the notice.

As the chorus for a temple grew louder, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat reiterated in Nagpur his stand that the government should bring a law to build the Ram temple. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said at a VHP event.

In Ayodhya, waving saffron flags and shouting slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram’, temple supporters came riding motorcycles and in cars and buses, prompting the administration to step up security and deploy additional forces to maintain law and order.

Ramji Das, a leader of Hindu group Nirmohi Akhara, told the VHP’s ‘Dharma Sabha’ that the date for the construction of the Ram temple “will be declared in the 2019 Kumbh which will be held in Prayagraj [Allahabad]”. Senior VHP leader Champat Rai said no formula for any division of land at the disputed site would be accepted by the supporters of the temple.

At the Shiv Sena event, party chief Uddhav Thackeray stepped up his attack on ally BJP, saying a Ram temple will be eventually built in Ayodhya whether or not the present government stayed in power.

The Ayodhya dispute is among India’s most sensitive and divisive political issues. A section of Hindus believe the 16th century mosque, Babri Masjid, in the town 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.

Last month, the Supreme Court turned down requests for an early hearing in the title dispute and said the court will decide the course of hearings in the first week of January. The decision effectively meant that the verdict was unlikely to be out before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections expected around April-May. The court is hearing 14 petitions challenging a 2010 Allahabad high court decision that trifurcated the disputed site between Hindus, Muslims and the representatives of Ram Lalla, a petitioner.

In Noida, Union minister Mahesh Sharma said the government was committed to constructing a Ram temple in Ayodhya. “All options are open for us. And we are exploring all of them,” he said.

First Published: Nov 25, 2018 23:47 IST