TEMPLE DISPUTE

SC again defers final hearing in Ayodhya dispute case

babri-masjid-demolition-pti [FILE] Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992 | PTI

The top court asked for English translation of documents in the case

The “fast tracking” of the Supreme Court hearing on the title dispute over the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid land was, on Thursday, adjourned for a second time, since it was to roll on, on December 5 last. The reason this time is the same as the last time. The apex court said the documentation and translations which were to be submitted on December 5 last have yet to be completed.

It will now be heard on March 14. 

Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, who comprise the three-judge bench in the case on which the political fortunes of the BJP are hinged, on Thursday said they would look at it as a “pure land dispute”.

The court has asked the parties concerned to file the documents and English translations within the next two weeks. While some of them begged that they did not have the records that were presented to the high court ahead of 2010, the Supreme Court directed the Registry to provide them copies on payment.

There were reportedly 32 outsiders including film director Shyam Benegal who, too, wanted to  become a party to the case. The judges wondered how they could be allowed to enter into a case that was “essentially a title suit”.

This does not include the Shia Waqf Board, which out of the blue stepped in and proposed that a temple be built at the disputed site, and a mosque somewhere near by. 

The apex court has before it 11 appeals against the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court which in 2010 trifurcated the 2.77 acres  land equally among the three claimants—the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the infant Ram Lalla .  

On the previous date of hearing in this case, senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Dushyant Dave and Rajiv Dhawan, had pleaded for the hearings to be deferred on grounds that the construction of the temple was part of the BJP's election manifesto in 2014. Sibal had gone to the extent of suggesting that it be deferred till the next Lok Sabha elections. While the Congress distanced itself from Sibal's argument, the BJP made hay as Gujarat electioneering was under way.

Former chief justice J.S. Kehar had mooted the idea of  a negotiated settlement, and had even volunteered to play mediator in the case that has spent 40 years in the district courts, 20 in the high courts, and over seven so far in the Supreme Court of India.

Meanwhile, there are indications that some third parties have tried to explore possibilities of  an out of court settlement. These include friends of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in the Ayodhya Sadhbhavana Samiti.

Trilokinath Pandey, who is counsel to Ram Lalla Vrajman, however, said there was no way the case can now be taken out of the court unless all the parties withdraw their cases. He does not think that is possible. 

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