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Ayodhya Hearing Deferred Till Jan 29 as Justice UU Lalit Recuses Self After Muslim Petitioners Object

Justice Lalit appeared for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in 1994, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan — who was appearing for the Muslim petitioners — told the bench after which the judge opted out of hearing the matter.


Updated:January 10, 2019, 10:50 PM IST
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred the hearing in the Ayodhya title dispute case to January 29 after Justice UU Lalit, who was part of a Constitution bench to hear the case, recused himself on Thursday.

Justice Lalit appeared for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in 1994, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan — who was appearing for the Muslim petitioners — told the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi soon after the court assembled. Though Dhavan said he was not seeking Justice Lalit's recusal, the judge opted out of the hearing in the matter.

The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud, noted the submissions made by Dhavan.

Dhavan also drew the attention of the bench to the fact that the matter was earlier fixed for hearing before a three-judge bench but the CJI took a decision to list it before a five-judge Constitution Bench. He further submitted that there was need for a judicial order to set up a five-judge Constitution bench.

The CJI, however, quoted Supreme Court rules mandating that any bench should comprise two judges and there was nothing wrong in constituting a five-judge Constitution bench. The CJI said in view of the facts and circumstances of the matter and the voluminous records pertaining to it, this was a fit case for constituting a five-judge bench.

In its order, the bench said the apex court registry will physically examine the records stored in 50 sealed trunks in the room, which has also been kept sealed. The top court said the records pertaining to the matter are voluminous and some of the documents are in Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Persian and Gurmukhi that need to be translated. If required, the apex court registry can take the service of official translators, the bench said.

Reacting to the delay, litigant Iqbal Ansari told CNN-News 18 that they would obey the order of the court. "The court was going to hear the case but due to the recusal by the judge, the court gave the next date. The court is independent, there is no religion in court. Lots of people hoped that the hearing would begin today but the court will not come under pressure. No ordinance will come and no law will be made."

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said the bench was looking into the title question and the hearing had "nothing to do with Ram Temple hearing". "It's a commitment that we will build Ram temple. A new generation has asked us to build it now and we will do it," he told CNN-News18.

On September 27 last year, a three-judge bench of the top court by 2:1 majority refused to refer to a five-judge Constitution bench reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement that a mosque was not integral to Islam. The matter arose during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.

When the matter was last taken up on January 4, there was no indication that the case would be referred to a Constitution bench as the apex court had simply said further orders in the matter would be passed on January 10 by "the appropriate bench, as may be constituted".

As many as 14 appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

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