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SC kicks the can down the road on Ayodhya-RJB case, next hearing on 10th

Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S. K. Kaul took just 30 seconds to dispose off yesterday’s hearing in the never-ending Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi (RJB) case, and set the next hearing on January 10 by an ‘appropriate bench’.

“No sooner the matter came up, the CJI said it is the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case and went ahead with passing the order. Senior advocates Harish Salve and Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for different parties, did not even get the opportunity to make any submission,” reported new wire agency PTI.

The bench also dismissed another petition which sought for time-bound hearing of the matter. The PIL for speedy hearing had been filed by Advocate Harinath Ram in view of the inordinate delay in the adjudication of the Ayodhya matter, and in “recognition of the prevailing sentiments, surrounding, the entire nation”. The delay, he had asserted, “has sent a huge consternation to the general public at large about the effectiveness of the justice delivery system by the apex court of our country.”

On October 28, the SC had adjourned the case till January to decide ‘which court and when’ the case will be heard. At the time CJI Gogoi had said that it can be heard in ‘January or February or May whenever..’. Despite the centre’s plea to take up the case after the Supreme Court’s Diwali vacation, the SC stated that no urgent date can be given as of now due to other priorities.

CJI Gogoi puts Ayodhya matter on back-bench

A bunch of appeals in Supreme Court have been undergoing litigation ever since the 2010 judgment of Allahabad High Court pertaining to division of Ayodhya-RJB land.

On 5 December 2017, when SC began the final hearing in the case, a plea for postponing the hearing after 2019 Lok Sabha polls was made by Congress ecosystem lawyers Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan and Dushyant Dave, on the ground that the ‘political climate was not conducive for hearing the dispute.’ However, the bench of the then CJI Misra turned down the plea, after a dramatic hearing session in which the agitated high-profile lawyers threatened a walkout from the courtroom.

It is noteworthy that ex-CJI Misra in no way quickened up the Ayodhya hearing – he just didn’t agree to put it on the back-burner and rot indefinitely like Congress wanted him to. But ever since that dramatic hearing in Dec ’17, Misra came square and centre on the Congress ecosystem hit-list: PILs were filed against him, 4 senior judges (including Justice Gogoi) came forward to criticise his roster allocation for “politically sensitive” cases, and Congress-led Opposition moved to impeach him.

Many subsequent hearings of the Ayodhya-RJB case were held from Feb to Sept with the CJI Misra led bench refusing to entertain any further third party interventions and also rejecting an intervention application of 32 ’eminent’ persons (Teesta Setalvad, Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen, Anil Dharkar etc).

In April, Rajeev Dhawan introduced a new angle in the case by demanding a larger Constitutional bench to review an earlier SC judgement about a mosque not being integral to Islam. The arguments on this new issue kept SC busy till 27 Sept, before it finally ruled that there was no need to refer the matter to a larger bench. On 7 Sept, while speaking at the launch of Kapil Sibal’s book ‘Shades of Truth’, staunch Modi critic Sharad Yadav claimed “there is visible impact of the impeachment process initiated against CJI Dipak Mishra, as demonstrated by recent verdicts of judiciary.”

With this latest postponement, the following tweet aptly sums up the sentiments of Hindu society towards the Supreme Court over the RJB issue –

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