The Supreme Court on Thursday, by an interim order, stayed the pronouncement of verdict by the Allahabad High Court on Friday on four title suits relating to the Ayodhya dispute.

A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and H.L. Gokhale stayed till Tuesday, September 28, the High Court verdict that dismissed a special leave petition (SLP) seeking a direction to defer the judgment for exploring the possibility of an amicable solution to the dispute through negotiations and mediation.

Taking into consideration the fact that Justice D.V. Sharma, on the special three-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court, is due to retire on October 1, the Supreme Court directed that the matter be listed for further hearing on September 28.

The proceedings witnessed differences between Justice Raveendran, heading the Bench, and Justice Gokhale. While the former wanted the High Court to be allowed to deliver the judgment on Friday as scheduled, the latter said one more opportunity should be explored to find an amicable solution.

At the end of arguments for about an hour, the Bench, in its brief order, said: “One of the members of the Bench is of the view that the SLP should be dismissed. Another member is of the view that the order should be stayed and notice issued. Tradition of this court is when one member says that notice be issued, another says that it should not be issued, the notice should be issued.”

Accordingly, the Bench stayed the September 17 order of the High Court till September 28 and issued notice to the parties as also to Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati for assisting the court.

In view of the differences between Justices Raveendran and Gokhale, the Bench referred the matter to Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia for posting it before a larger Bench.

On Wednesday, a Bench headed by Justice Altamas Kabir said the SLP would be posted before an appropriate Bench.

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for petitioner Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, submitted that if the judgment was not deferred it could lead to serious problems. When the country was facing problems in Jammu and Kashmir and most of the northern States were in the grip of rain and floods, pronouncement of the judgment would further worsen the situation and revive tensions.

“Let there be an attempt for an amicable solution. We have all seen the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.”

Hundreds of chances

Justice Raveendran asked counsel: “Is this the ground for postponement of a judgment? For 50 years you have not been able to solve the problem. The High Court had given hundreds of opportunities for settlement but nothing worked.”

He said: “One way or the other it will have to be decided. Why do you assume that the people in this country are so immature? Religious passion will rise if people raise it. If people don't raise it, it will not rise. If you are able to persuade one of the parties to the dispute to support your stand, we could have considered it. But not even one of them is supporting you. It should not be a publicity exercise”

Mr. Rohatgi said one of them, Nirmohi Akhara, was supporting the petitioner for a settlement.

Senior Counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad, appearing for Baba Dharamdas, and senior counsel Anup George Chaudhary, appearing for the U.P. Sunni Central Wakf Board (both plaintiffs in the suits). They wanted the High Court to pronounce the judgment as scheduled.

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