Ayodhya verdict: From Ranjan Gogoi to SA Nazeer, meet the five judges on Supreme Court bench who will decide longest title dispute

FP Staff

The Supreme Court is scheduled to pronounce on Saturday its verdict in the politically sensitive case of Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya. The judgment will be announced at 10.30 am by a five-judge constitutional bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and includes justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

The bench had on 16 October had reserved the judgment after marathon hearing of 40 days. The apex court had on 6 August commenced day-to-day proceedings in the case as the mediation proceedings initiated to find the amicable resolution had failed.


Here's are short profiles on the five judges including CJI Ranjan Gogoi and what they have said so far on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi

Chief Justice of India Gogoi has abstained from asking probing questions during the hearing, however, he has been very diligent about finishing the marathon hearing in the case and giving a verdict in the case on time which, something he had said would be "miraculous" if delivered before his retirement.

The "miraculous" verdict is expected to be delivered tomorrow at 10.30 am €" and a lot of credit for that goes to Gogoi in ensuring all parties in the case stick to the deadline given to them.

On the last day of the hearing, CJI Gogoi, visibly irked by the lawyer of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who approached the bench with an urgent intervention, said, "Enough is enough. There is no more time for any intervention. All parties must finish their arguments by 5 pm today," adding that nobody apart from the recognised parties in the case will be allowed to speak in the court.

During the hearing, the CJI was often seen engaging with other judges in the case but has often come down heavily on people making inflammatory comments both inside and outside the court. Last month, CJI Gogoi had cancelled his multi-nation official foreign visit to make sure there is enough time to write the judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case

Born on 18 November, 1954, CJI Gogoi joined the Bar in 1978, as the Supreme Court website states. He practised mainly in the Gauhati High Court and was appointed as a Permanent Judge of the Gauhati High Court on 28 February, 2001.

He was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 9 September, 2010 and was then appointed the Chief Justice of the same high court on 12 February, 2011.

CJI Gogoi became a judge of the Supreme Court on 23 April, 2012.

CJI Gogoi was among the four Supreme Court judges who had called a press conference in January 2018 saying that the situation in the top court was "not in order" and many "less than desirable" things had taken place.  Set to retire on 17 November, CJI Gogoi is expected to give a verdict in six major cases, including the Ayodhya land dispute case.

Justice SA Bobde

Justice SA Bobde will take oath as the 47th CJI, after CJI Gogoi's term ends on 17 November. Born on 24 April, 1956, at Nagpur, Maharashtra, Bobde hails from a family of illustrious lawyers.

Bobde practised law at the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court with appearances at Bombay before the Principal Seat and before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India for over 21 years. He was designated as a senior advocate in 1998. Then in March 2000, after a 22-year career as a lawyer, Bobde was elevated to the Bench of the Bombay High Court as an additional judge. He later rose through the ranks to be sworn in as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court on 16 October 2012. He was elevated as a judge of Supreme Court of India on 12 April, 2013. Justice Bobde, who was in favour of the mediation process at the early stage in the case, had said at the beginning that "the court has no control over what happened in the past, who invaded, who was the king, temple or mosque. It just knows about the present dispute and it is concerned only about resolving the dispute".

He has maintained that stand throughout the hearing in the case.

Bode not only termed the Ayodhya case "one of the most important in the world", but he is also known to have asked some of the quirkiest questions to both the Hindu and Muslim parties during the hearing of the sensitive case.

On 8 August, Justice Bobde had famously asked senior advocate K Parasaran (appearing for Ram Lalla) to tell the court if there had been any parallels to the Ram Janmabhoomi case. He said, "Has a question of this nature ever arisen in any other court? ...Has any court dealt with, say, the issue of the birth of Lord Jesus Christ?"

Parasaran had no answers.

In another hearing, Justice Bobde threw senior advocate Zafaryab Jilani, appearing for the Sunni Waqf Board, off guard when he asked: "So you have no dispute that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya?" Jilani replied: "There is no dispute to that. Our dispute concerns their position that the birthplace is inside the mosque". Jilani, however, the next day retracted the statement.

While hearing an argument, Justice Bobde had asked senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan (appearing for Sunni Waqf Board) about the origins of the holiest place in Islam, Kaaba in Mecca. Justice Bobde sought to know if the "Kaaba is sculpted or it is swayambhu or self-manifested?"

On divinity of Ram Janmabhoomi: "Why do you insist on divinity (to Ramjanmabhumi) to establish juristic personality to the land? A ship is a juristic person, but not divine..."

On Babur: "We are not here to see if Babur was a sinner. We are here to see if Babur followed the law on the secular use of property... to see if he was subject to any law."

On Babri mosque: "The mosque stands or stood. There was a structure in the shape of a mosque. There is no dispute about that. Whether it was dedicated for the purpose of mosque is argued. However, that does not take away the existence of a mosque. ...Even if the argument that waqf was not created is accepted, the mosque stood or used to stand?"

Justice DY Chandrachud

Justice Chandrachud, who was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court in May 2016, was against the mediation process in the Ayodhya case from the beginning.

The former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Justice Chandchud has also served as a judge in the Bombay High Court. He has also practised law at the Supreme Court of India and the Bombay High Court.

Known for testing both the Hindu and Muslim parties on the relevance of their arguments, Justice Chandchud, during one of the hearing had wondered if Hindus thronged Ram Chabutra, which 'coincidentally' came up after 1855 along with the railing barricading the Babri Masjid, to actually set their eyes on and pray to the space under the central dome of the mosque, believed to be where Lord Ram was born.

"After 1855, Ram Chabutra was erected just outside the railing. It, in fact, came up along with the railing. So it must be that worshippers believed that praying at the 'chabutra' meant actually praying at the central dome... They actually went to pray at the central dome," Justice Chandrachud had observed. Justice Ashok Bhushan intervened to say, "They went to the railing because they believed that birth happened there [under the central dome]".

Justice Chandrachud observed, "Why do you need to pray at the railing? You go to the railing to look beyond the railing." Justice DY Chandrachud,  said, "It seems to be a very fluid situation in Ayodhya. There is the presence of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Islam."

Justice Ashok Bhushan:

Justice Ashok Bhushan has served as a permanent judge of the Allahabad High Court in 2001. He was sworn in as the judge of the Kerala High Court in 2014. The same year he took charge as acting Chief Justice and in 2015, was sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court. He was elevated as judge of the Supreme Court in 2016.

Justice Bhushan reportedly been "dexterous in pulling out all relevant information from the cross-examination of the witnesses and often probe the counsels on the component of faith attached in the matter".

According to The Print, while senior advocates Parasaran and Dhawan were debated on the worship of God in manifested and unmanifested forms, Justice Bhushan had inquired, "Is the spirit of Lord Ram invoked in the janmabhoomi and in the idol both or is there only one juridical person?"

To which Parasaran had replied: "Whether the Lord's image is carved or whether the idol is movable, it does not matter. Juristic person comes from manifestation of the spirit".

Justice SA Nazeer

Justice SA Nazeer served as an additional judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2003 and as a Permanent Judge in 2004. He was elevated as Supreme Court judge in 2017. Justice Nazeer has patiently heard the counsels in the Ayodhya title dispute.

Also See: Ahead of Ayodhya verdict, internet services in parts of Rajasthan and UP suspended; educational institutes remain closed in several districts till tomorrow

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