Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 20
A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will take up the politically sensitive Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute at Ayodhya on February 26.
Headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, the Bench will commence hearing at 10.30 am on next Tuesday, a notification issued by the Supreme Court Registry said on Wednesday.
Other four judges on the Bench are: Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the Centre had moved the Supreme Court late last month for permission to return 67.390-acre “non-disputed” land acquired by it in 1993 around the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya to its original owners.
The top court has already said the Constitution Bench would also hear the Centre’s plea and a fresh petition challenging the validity of a 1993 central law by which the government acquired 67.703 acre land, including the disputed premises in Ayodhya.
Seven devotees of Lord Ram had on February 4 moved the Supreme Court challenging a 1993 central law on acquisition of land adjoining the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site at Ayodhya on the ground that Parliament didn’t have the legislative competence to acquire the land.
The PV Narasimha Rao government had acquired 67.703 acre—including the 2.77 acre—through the Ayodhya Act in 1993.
The acquisition was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1994 in Ismail Faruqui’s case in which it had said if the Centre wanted to return the acquired land to its original owners it may do so.
The Ram Janambhoomi Nyas was the owner of 42 acre of the non-disputed land before acquisition and it has sought return of excess land acquired.
Last month, the CJI had reconstituted the Constitution Bench after Justice UU Lalit’s decision on January 10 to recuse from the case as he had represented former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh in a contempt matter relating to Ayodhya demolition case.
The new Constitution Bench included Justice Bhushan and Justice Nazeer who were earlier part of a three-judge Bench that heard Ayodhya matter.
Justice NV Ramana, who was in the Bench which heard the matter on January 10, was dropped. In place of Justice Lalit and Justice Ramana, Justice Bhushan and Justice Nazeer have been brought in.
More than eight years after the Allahabad High Court’s order dividing the disputed land at Ayodhya equally between Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhada and Sunni Wakf Board, the new five-judge Constitution Bench headed by CJI Gogoi will on Tuesday take up the matter.
The dispute over 2.7 acres of land has been on since 1961 when the Sunni Wakf Board took the matter to court which was decided by the Allahabad HC on September 30, 2010. The high court had equally divided the disputed property between Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhada and Sunni Wakf Board.
Fourteen cross-appeals filed by various parties against the HC order have been hanging fire for months despite completion of procedural formalities, including translation of documents and filing of affidavits, counter-affidavits and rejoinders.
But the top court had on January 10 ordered its registry to physically examine the records stored in 15 sealed trunks in a sealed room and also verify if voluminous records/documents in six languages—Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Persian and Gurmukhi were translated or not.
It asked the Registry to physically inspect the records; make an assessment of the time that will be taken to make the cases ready for hearing by engaging, if required, official translators of the requisite number and give a report thereof to the Court by January 29, when the reconstituted Bench will assemble to take up the matter for further orders.
Hindus believe that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya thousands of years ago. During Mughal emperor Babar’s rule, a mosque was constructed at the place in 1528 after destroying the temples existing there.
More than 70 years after the Faizabad Civil Court rejected its claim over Babri Masjid as a Shia Wakf, the Shia Central Waqf Board of UP had last year moved the Supreme Court to assert its claim over the disputed site. Interestingly, the Special Leave Petition – which challenged a 1946 decision of the Faizabad Civil Court – said the Babri Masjid was built by demolishing a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
Amid demands by Hindu organisations for an ordinance to pave the way for construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier suggested that any such decision could happen only after the completion of the judicial process.
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