Ayodhya case: Supreme Court defers start of final hearing to 8 February
The Supreme Court also rejected Sunni Waqf Board counsel Kapil Sibal’s plea to postpone the hearing in the Ayodhya case till after 2019 Lok Sabha elections
New Delhi: On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, the Supreme Court on Tuesday deferred the start of the final hearing in the Ayodhya title dispute to 8 February 2018.
The case was heard by a bench comprising chief justice Dipak Misra and justices Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer. The specially constituted bench will be hearing a total of 13 appeals filed against the 2010 judgment of the Allahabad high court in four civil suits.
On Tuesday, the court further instructed all the advocates appearing for all the parties to “work in harmony and see that all the relevant documents are ready and filed”, after counsel for Sunni Waqf Board, Kapil Sibal submitted that some exhibits and documents pertaining to the title suit have not been filed and served by the parties.
The court rejected Sibal’s plea to postpone the hearing to July 2019, after the next Lok Sabha elections. He argued that the court’s judgment in the present case is bound to have political and social ramifications.
Sibal said, “Justice should not only be done, but must also seen to be done... We are standing for the entire nation... Why was it not heard before? We should not fall into this trap.”
Congress chief spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala said, “Congress stand has always been clear. Ayodhya case will be decided by the Supreme Court and the same has been said earlier as well.”
He was replying to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, who told reporters in Ahmedabad that the Congress party should clear its position on the case, saying Sibal’s plea for deferring the hearing constituted “a surprising stand.”
Rajiv Dhawan, counsel for Sunni Waqf Board, submitted that the matter should be listed before a larger Constitution bench comprising five judges or more.
The question of “a larger bench cannot be decided at this juncture... If and when the occasion arises, the matter will be considered by a larger bench for the purpose of clarity”, said Misra.
The Ram Janmabhoomi movement initiated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, a historic event that led to a paradigm shift in Indian politics and made cultural nationalism the central theme of electoral politics for the BJP.
Politically, the outcome of the hearings will be significant because BJP, which is in power both in the centre and Uttar Pradesh, had promised to build a consensus over the Ram temple issue in both its national as well as state election manifestos.
The Supreme Court in August had directed all the contesting parties to complete the translation of all documents in English within 12 weeks. The documents were in eight different languages. The Uttar Pradesh government, led by Yogi Adityanath, was also directed to translate evidence recorded for adjudication of the title dispute in the high court within ten weeks.
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