Judge exits bench, Ayodhya matter hearing on January 29 now

This was the first time there was no minority judge in a bench hearing a significant matter related to the Ayodhya case. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

The Supreme Court Thursday adjourned the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute till January 29 when it will decide the schedule of hearing in the case. The case was adjourned after Justice Uday U Lalit recused himself from the case for previously being a lawyer in a related case. The court will now constitute a new bench ahead of the next hearing.

Initially, a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SA Bobde, Justice NV Ramana, Justice UU Lalit, Justice DY Chandrachud were scheduled to decide the date when they will begin hearing the 14 appeals in the case. However, Justice Uday Lalit recused himself from the case after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim protest pointed out that he had once appeared as a lawyer for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in a related matter. Though Dhavan said he was not seeking Justice Lalit’s recusal, the judge opted out of the hearing in the matter. Read in Malayalam: , 29

This was the first time there was no minority judge in a bench hearing a significant matter related to the Ayodhya case.

Explained: Why Justice Lalit recused from Constitution bench hearing Ayodhya title dispute

Dhavan also raised an objection to the fact that the matter was earlier fixed for hearing before a three-judge bench but the CJI took a decision to list it before a five-judge Constitution Bench. He also said that there was a need for a judicial order to set up a five-judge Constitution bench.

The CJI, however, said in view of the facts and circumstances of the matter and the voluminous records pertaining to it, this was a fit case for constituting a five-judge bench. He also said that the court rules mandate that any bench should comprise two judges and there was nothing wrong in constituting a five-judge Constitution bench. Read in Bangla: ,

Appeals against the September 30, 2010 decision of the Allahabad High Court - which accepted that the disputed site was birthplace of Lord Ram and ordered a three-way pision of the disputed 2.77 acres, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman - have been pending since December of that year.

On October 29 last year, the bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and K M Joseph had refused to grant the Uttar Pradesh government counsel's request for urgent hearing of the appeals in the case. The bench had ordered that the appeals be listed in the first week of January before an "appropriate bench" which it said would decide the date of hearing.

The hearing comes amid demands by right-wing organisations, including the RSS, for an early decision on the dispute. Demands seeking an ordinance for construction of a Ram temple have also gained momentum.