Supreme Court likely to set up bench on Ayodhya case today

The Supreme Court will decide on Monday the schedule of hearing and composition of the bench to hear petitions challenging a 2010 Allahabad high court judgment in the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit as the legal battle surrounding one of India’s most contentious political issues resumes.

According to the list of daily business released by the Supreme Court registry, a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, justice SK Kaul and justice KM Joseph will hear the case and is expected to set up a special bench to hear the decades-old case revolving around the ownership of a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya.

Hindu groups believe the 16th century mosque, Babri Masjid, was built over a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram, whose birthplace is also considered to be at the site. In 1992, a mob of thousands demolished the mosque, triggering a cycle of violence and riots across India.

After prolonged litigation, in September 2010, the Allahabad high court ordered a trifurcation of the disputed site between the Nirmohi Akhada, Ram Lalla (the deity is a party in the case through a legal representative) and the Sunni Muslim Waqf Board. The decision was immediately challenged before the apex court.

Advocate Saurabh Shyam Shamsheri, who appears for Ram Lalla, said, “We are optimistic that the court will begin hearing the matter soon. When the matter is taken up by the court on Monday we will press for early and day-to-day hearing in the matter, so that the case is disposed off expeditiously.”

“We have got very strong documentary evidence to support our case and have full faith in the judiciary that justice would be meted out to us. We are fully prepared and have already submitted a 100-page document,” said senior counsel for Muslim litigants Zafaryab Jilani.

Muslim parties are expected to focus on challenging the high court order that relied heavily on matters of faith and belief. The Hindu parties are likely to rely on the HC verdict that decided the case partially in their favour and held that Muslim suits are barred on grounds of limitation so, no relief can be given in their favour.

On September 27, the apex court declined to refer to a five-judge constitution bench the issue of reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam which had arisen during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.

In a majority verdict of 2:1, a three-judge bench headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra had said the civil suit has to be decided on the basis of evidence and the previous verdict has no relevance to this issue.

The hearings begin barely six months before general elections are due in 2019 and the hearings are certain to bring the divisive case into the political centre stage.

On Sunday, UP deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said no structure in the name of Mughal emperor Babur would be allowed in Ayodhya. “We are hopeful that the top court will provide a solution to the issue which is a matter of faith for millions of people,” Maurya said.

His comments came a day after chief minister Yogi Adityanath said in New Delhi, “If Supreme Court can give a judgment on Sabarimala, it should also give its order in Ram temple case. I request the court to do so.” Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat last week called for a central legislation to build a Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

First Published: Oct 29, 2018 06:47 IST

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