The Supreme Court will take up the much debated Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case on Tuesday in a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.
The bench is expected to fix a date to commence and prepare a schedule for the hearings. Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer will also be a part of the bench.
The top court will also consider the review petitions filed in the contentious Rafale aircraft deal against its December 14 judgment “in chambers” later in the afternoon. Review petitions against the main judgment are usually decided by the judges sitting in their chambers. If the judges — in this case the CJI and justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph — opine that the petitions deserve an open court hearing, then they would give a date for the same.
The five-judge bench hearing the Ayodhya case was reconstituted after justice UU Lalit, on January 10, recused himself from hearing the matter after it was pointed out to him that he has in the past appeared in a contempt case related to the title suit. Justice NV Ramana was also replaced on the bench.
Justices Bhushan and Nazeer, who came in instead of justices Lalit and Ramana, were part of a bench headed by then CJI Dipak Misra that last year declined to refer an old judgment about whether a mosque is integral to Islam or not, to a larger bench.
On January 27, the Supreme Court cancelled a scheduled January 29 hearing because justice Bobde was not available that day.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against a 2010 Allahabad high court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally between three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhada and Ram Lalla, the child deity.
The Constitution Bench is also expected to hear a fresh petition filed by residents of Ayodhya, who have challenged the 1993 law by which the Centre acquired the 67.7 acres of land around the disputed site. The petition, filed by seven individuals, including two Lucknowbased lawyers claiming to be devotees of Ram Lalla, contends that Parliament had no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to a state.
The court will also hear a fresh application by the Union of India seeking the court’s nod to return the undisputed area, except the 0.313 acre plot where the demolished mosque stood until it was demolished by “kar sevaks” on December 6, 1992, to its rightful owners. According to the Centre, 42 acres of the acquired non-disputed land belonged to Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN).
It has sought modification of court’s 2003 order that while upholding the acquisition law had ordered status quo at the site.
The bench has already brought on record the magnitude of the case. CJI Gogoi has mentioned that 120 issues have been framed in the case and a total of 88 witnesses had been examined by subordinate courts.
The deposition of witnesses runs into 13,886 pages and 257 documents have been exhibited; and, as the judgement runs into 4,304 pages, the original records of the case are stored in 15 sealed trunks.
“The advantage or disadvantage for a political party or a group of parties can be imagined only if there is a judgment on the Ayodhya dispute. Mere hearing of the case doesn’t mean anything for either the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] or its adversaries,” said Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).
SC’s Rafale review today
The Supreme Court will on Tuesday consider review petitions filed in the Rafale case against its December 14 judgement.
The bench would comprise Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SK Kaul and Justice KM Joseph. As per the SC rules, review petitions are decided by the judges in chambers through circulation. In case the judges opine that the petitions deserve an open court hearing then they would give a date for the same.
The review petitions have been filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, advocate Prashant Bhushan. They have claimed that the judgement was based on “errors apparent on the face of the record” and non-consideration of subsequent information which has come to light would cause a grave miscarriage of justice. Aam Aadmi party MP Sanjay Singh has also filed a review plea.