New Delhi: The Centre moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking permission for release of excess land of 67.7 acres acquired around the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site to its original owners.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, for whom the Ayodhya dispute is crucial to the Lok Sabha elections, sought modification of the March 2003 order, that had directed status quo over the excess land.
"No part of the aforesaid land shall be handed over by the government to anyone and the same shall be retained by the government till the disposal of this petition," the order said.
After cancellation of the case hearing on Tuesday, law minister Ravi Prasad Shankar urged the court to expeditiously hear the issue that has been pending for the last 70 years.
A new constitution bench formed on 25 January was slated to hear the issue on Tuesday. The hearing was cancelled as one of the judges on the bench, Justice S.A. Bobde, was on leave. The next date for hearing has not been set.
The earlier constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, D.Y. Chandrachud and U.U Lalit was set up on 8 January.
On 10 January, the court directed the Supreme Court registry to engage official translators and submit a report regarding the correctness of the case documents.
The registry was also asked to assess the time required to make the case ready for hearing.
The registry was required to go through records stored in 15 sealed trunks running into thousands of pages. The case has been placed on the back burner despite attempts by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy, an intervener, to secure an early hearing.
The apex court will hear 13 appeals filed against a 2010 Allahabad high court order mandating a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram), represented by the Hindu Mahasabha.
A civil suit for deciding the title of the property on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished on 6 December, 1992, has been filed before the Lucknow bench of the high court.
The Supreme Court had stayed the order in 2011.
The Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh had told the apex court in August 2018 that it was amenable to building a mosque in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the disputed site.