The Supreme Court on Tuesday paved the way for the Allahabad High Court to pronounce its verdict on four title suits relating to the Ayodhya dispute pending for about 60 years.
A Bench, comprising Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justices Aftab Alam and K.S. Radhakrishnan, dismissed an application of Ramesh Chandra Tripathi seeking deferment of the pronouncement of the verdict. The Bench thereby lifted its interim stay order passed on September 23 restraining the High Court from pronouncing the verdict. The verdict was to have been delivered on September 24.
Within an hour of the dismissal of the application, the High Court announced that the verdict would be pronounced at 3.30 p.m. on September 30, a day ahead of the retirement of Justice D.V. Sharma, one of the three judges on the Bench that heard the title suits.
In a brief order, the Supreme Court Bench said: “Having considered the detailed arguments advanced in these cases, we are of the view that the special leave petitions deserve to be dismissed.”
While Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Mr. Tripathi, argued that there was nothing wrong in exploring an opportunity for settlement through mediation or negotiation, counsel for the Sunni Central Board of Wakfs of Uttar Pradesh, Baba Dharamdas, and Mohd. Hashim expressed their unwillingness to go in for negotiations on the ground that it would be a futile exercise as all earlier attempts did not succeed. They pleaded for vacating the stay and allowing the High Court to pronounce the verdict.
When Mr. Rohatgi submitted that “though we are running against time [since one of the High Court judges is due to retire on October 1] there is nothing wrong in giving one more opportunity for mediation,” Justice Alam told counsel: “You are running against time because you woke up late. That is done after 50 years. The question is why you were quiet for all these days. You had to strike chord when the matter was in the High Court.”
Mr. Rohatgi said that “the ramifications are too large to be bogged down by the issue of technicalities like a judge's retirement.”
Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the Centre, whose submission was crucial in deciding the issue, was categorical that the most preferred solution to the Ayodhya problem would be settlement but that “has not taken place and the uncertainty which is prevailing should not be allowed to continue.”
In an apparent reference to the Central forces stationed across the country in anticipation of the High Court verdict, Mr. Vahanvati said: “We can't keep law and order machinery in sustained animation.”