The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute after one of the judges on the Constitution Bench recused himself. The next date of the hearing is January 29.
Justice UU Lalit recused himself from the matter after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that Lalit had appeared as counsel in another Ram temple case.
Before that, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had said the court would only fix the schedule to hear a batch of petitions related to the matter and clarified that the hearing was not starting on Thursday.
A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud was to hear the petitions. The bench will now be reconstituted after Justice Lalit decided not to hear the matter.
Gogoi said the decision to post the matter before a five-judge Constitution Bench was taken on the administrative side pursuant to Supreme Court Rules, reported Bar & Bench. In September, the top court had refused to refer to a larger bench its judgement from 1994.
The bench also directed the Supreme Court registry to engage official translators to ensure case documents which are in Persian, Sanskrit are translated correctly and to submit a report by January 29, reported Live Law.
On January 4, the court had adjourned the hearing to January 10, and said an “appropriate bench” would pass further orders on the matter.
The Supreme Court had in October rejected the Uttar Pradesh government’s appeal for an early hearing in the case. As many as 14 separate petitions have been filed against the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict ordering a three-way division of the land on which the Babri Masjid stood. The land was divided equally between the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Wakf Board and the representative for the deity Ram Lalla in the 2010 judgement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an interview on January 1, had said the government will wait until the judicial process over the dispute is complete before deciding on the matter.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including Amit Shah and Ravi Shankar Prasad, have urged the Supreme Court to fast-track the hearing. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and some Hindu religious leaders want the government to pass an ordinance for the construction of the temple. The Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally in Maharashtra, has sought a bill for the construction of the temple.
The Babri masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992, by lakhs of karsevaks who had gathered at the site from across the country. The incident had triggered communal riots across the country. The karsevaks had claimed that the land on which the mosque stood was the birthplace of Ram.