Saturday, February 22, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

SC to hear Ayodhya case on March 6
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 21
The Centre today received a setback in the Ayodhya case when the Supreme Court while rejecting the plea of an early hearing, fixed March 6 as the date to take up the Union Government’s petition seeking to vacate the apex court’s interim order banning all religious activities in the 67 acres of acquired land around the disputed site.

“The earliest the matter could be heard would be March 6 and not earlier,” the court observed and fixed the hearing before a five-judge Constitution Bench.

A Bench of Mr Chief Justice V.N. Khare and Mr Justice V.N. Lakshmanan, however, observed that if for any reason the hearing had to be adjourned, the Constitution Bench should at least hear or dispose of the plea of the Centre for vacating the orders of March 13-14 last year, banning any religious activity, including “bhoomi puja” on the acquired land.

This order of the Supreme Court assumes significance as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad toughening its stand on the Ayodhya issue had threatened to launch a “people’s movement” if the Centre failed to allow work on the construction of the Ram temple on the acquired land in Ayodhya by February 23.

The main issue before the Constitution Bench would be whether religious activities of any kind could be permitted on the 67 acres of acquired land, of which the Centre is the “receiver”.

The Bench would also decide whether status quo on the undisputed land should be maintained till the disposal of the title suit pending before the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

Opening the arguments, Solicitor-General Kirit N. Raval said the matter brooks no delay as the uncertainty prevailing on the acquired land was not in public interest.

Opposing the Centre’s plea, All-India Muslim Personal Law Board counsel Kapil Sibal said the government is not stating the actual reason behind the hurry.

He said the VHP has threatened to enter the site forcibly in March if the government did not resolve the contentious issue. “That is why they have rushed to the court,” Sibal said.

BJP hails pronouncement

The BJP today welcomed the pronouncement of the Supreme Court that it would take up the Ayodhya issue for hearing next month and consider the issue of lifting the interim stay on all religious activity on the acquired land.

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