Treat Ayodhya case as a 'land issue': CJI

New turn: Petitioners in the Ayodhya dispute leaving the Supreme Court after the hearing on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The Supreme Court conveyed its clinical approach to the 70-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, exhorting the parties on either side of the fence to treat it merely as a “land issue.”

Indicating it would not be swayed by the history of religious conflict and violence associated with the Ayodhya site, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra addressed a tense and crowded courtroom, saying “please treat this as a land issue.”

Three­way partition

The Hindu parties and sects involved in the dispute believe Lord Ram was born on this land. Kar sevaks razed the 15th century Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. In September 2010,  a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court attempted to bring quietus by pronouncing a three-way partition of the disputed site. But this judgment had only led to appeals and cross appeals filed by parties in the Supreme Court.

On Thursday, the court warded off third-party intervenors, who said they wanted in as the  Ayodhya appeals dealt with an issue that impacted the nation. 

But a Bench, comprising the CJI and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer, firmly told them that these were appeals and cross-appeals filed in land suits, and parties concerned were quite capable of arguing them without any third party interventions.

When senior advocate C.U. Singh, representing some “prominent names,” reminded the court that these Ayodhya appeals had come to the limelight because of an intervenor, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, Chief Justice Misra brushed it aside, saying “how do I know? The case was posted to this Bench by my predecessor [then Chief Justice J.S. Khehar].”

The court then recorded that over 500 exhibits, which include the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana and documents written in various languages like Sanskrit and Pali, have been filed. The depositions of 87 witnesses have also been filed along with the Archaeological Survey of India’s reports. However, some translations are yet to be completed and copies of videos have to be taken. The court asked the parties to do so in the next two weeks.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, for the appellants, objected to a submission by senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan that appellants should provide them with a synopsis of the propositions they are going to make in court.

Mr. Dhavan said the respondents should not dictate what propositions he should argue on.

“What is relevant for me, may be irrelevant for you. I will open the case however I want. I will not be curtailed by any propositions. Let me present the case as I want. You [respondents] want a proposition? Here is one. You are wrong. A 100 times wrong,” Mr. Dhavan said.

“Such hyperbole should be avoided”

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Uttar Pradesh government, reacting to Mr. Dhavan's words, said, “Such hyperbole should be avoided.”

Senior advocate K. Parasaran, on behalf of deity Ram Lalla, rose to address the court at this point, submitting that the Bench should confine itself to the documents on record rather than fan out.

“What kind of evidence will be there from 30,000 years ago? The incident relates to the Treta Yuga,” Mr. Parasaran submitted.

The court indicated that it may prioritise the Ayodhya appeals once the final hearings commence.

Urges dedicated time

Mr. Dhavan said the court should dedicate time to the appeals rather than hear them in the one-hour intervals between Constitution Bench hearings.

The practice now in the CJI court is that a five-judge Constitution Bench sits morning and afternoon from Tuesdays to Thursdays. An hour each is spent on other cases, including PILs, just before the Constitution Bench convenes for the day. Mr. Dhavan did not want that treatment to be meted out to the Ayodhya case.

But a visibly annoyed CJI Misra said these “other cases” are heard in between Constitution Bench hearings because they deal with “over 700 poor litigants waiting for justice”.

The court posted the Ayodhya case for hearing on March 14.

PTI reports from Bengaluru:

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar meets Muslim leaders

Renewing his mediation efforts on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Thursday held a meeting here with Muslim leaders, including members from the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Sunni Waqf Board.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 6:47:50 PM |

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