The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, set an 18 October deadline for hearing arguments and completing submissions in the decades-old Ayodhya land dispute case. The verdict is likely to be announced on 15 November, NDTV reported.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who has presided over the daily hearing since July, said, "As per the estimate of tentative dates to finish the hearing in the case, we can say that the submissions have to be likely completed by 18 October."
Gogoi has also requested both parties to put a joint effort into the case so that the judgment can be given at the earliest.
He added that if the need arises, he will sit on the bench for the hearings. Additionally, the case may be heard for longer during weekdays, as well as on Saturdays to help meet the 18 October deadline, he said.
Reports also said that the apex court allowed the mediation process to take place side-by-side the daily hearings. The court also held that the parties can choose to settle for the mediation process.
The panel can submit a report whatever be the outcome of it after the process, the court observed. The report will be submitted by the panel to the apex court in a sealed cover. There is no deadline for the mediation panel, the apex court said. But at the same time, the hearing in the Supreme Court will continue as per schedule.
The current mediation panel comprises of former Supreme Court judge FMI Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu and was suspended earlier in July due to resistance from certain blocks across the religious divide.
This comes in wake of the fact that Gogoi is set to retire on 17 November. Hence, the judgment for the case will also most likely take place before that, which gives the bench almost a month to complete reviewing the case and deliver a verdict.
Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for Ram Lalla Virajman, said it will take two to four days for his side to complete its arguments, whereas the Muslim side's senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said that they will present finishing their arguments by 28 September.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court asked the counsels for both Hindu and Muslim parties in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case to inform it about the tentative "time schedule" for concluding their arguments.
When the five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Gogoi, re-assembled in the afternoon on the 25th day of the hearing, Dhavan was asked about the time schedule for the conclusion of arguments. The judges noted that this would help them get an idea of the time available to write the judgment.
The bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, asked Dhavan to consult lawyers from other sides as well.
Dhavan, arguing for Sunni Waqf Board and others including original litigant M Siddiq, said he also wanted a judgment in this case and he would be swift in advancing submissions.
The apex court, on 6 August, had commenced the day-to-hearing in the Ayodhya land dispute case and had assured mid-week breaks to Dhavan prepare for the case.
The Allahabad High Court, in its judgment of 2010 on four civil lawsuits, had partitioned the disputed 2.77-acre land equally among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the verdict that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties " the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
With inputs from agencies.