New Delhi: A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SK Kaul and Justice KM Joseph has posted the Ayodhya land-dispute case in the first week of January to fix a date for hearing of the case before an appropriate bench. The bench, on Monday, said actual date of the hearing is to be decided by the appropriate bench and the court cannot say when the hearing would begin.
“We will fix the date of hearing of the Ayodhya dispute case before the appropriate bench in January,” the bench said. The new bench will hear the appeals filed against the Allahabad high court’s 2010 verdict that pronounced the disputed land of 2.77 acre to be divided among the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (Infant Ram, represented by Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha). The bench had partially relied on the Hindu faith, belief and folklore while delivering the 2010 judgment.
The apex court had on September 27, headed by the-then chief justice, Dipak Misra, said that the suit should be decided on the basis of evidence. In the majority opinion, the court had also declined to refer the question of “offering a prayer in a mosque is an essential part of Islam” to a seven-judge constitution bench and had indicated that the appeal would be decided like any other civil suit.
On the other hand, Justice S Abdul Nazeer has believed that the question of whether mosque is an essential part of Islam should be considered taking in to account religious beliefs. The issue had arisen during the hearing of Ayodhya land dispute in Allahabad high court.
The judgment of the bench headed by Misra had directed the hearing of appeals against the verdict of Allahabad high court to start from October 29.
Politicians and right-wing organizations react
Following the Supreme Court’s move to defer the hearing of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case to January, some BJP leaders and right-wing organizations reacted sharply and pressed for the government to bring a law to build a Ram temple on the disputed site.
BJP MP and Union minister Giriraj Singh said Hindus were “running out of patience” for the Ram temple. Issuing a veiled threat, he said, “Shri Ram is the cornerstone of the faith of Hindus … The Congress has decided to make it a Hindu-Muslim issue … Hindus are running out of patience. I fear what will happen if Hindus lose patience.”
Vinay Katiyar, another senior BJP leader, alleged that the “Congress’s pressure” made the apex court delay the hearing of the dispute. He said, “The decision is being delayed under pressure from the Congress. People like Kapil Sibal and Prashant Bhushan are pressing for delaying the issue. Till when will Rambhakts (Ram devotees) will wait? In 2019, the Congress will come to know.”
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s publicity chief, Arun Kumar, in a statement said: “We are of the opinion that the Supreme Court should immediately decide the case and if there are some problems, the government should bring legislation to remove the obstacles and hand over the Ram Janamsthan Bhoomi to Shri Ramjanambhoomi Nyas. We have supported all the decisions of Pujya Sant and Dharam Sansad regarding the movement to build a temple and will also do in future.”
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad said the government should bring a law to pave the way for building a Ram temple on the disputed site. Alok Kumar, VHP’s working president, said, “VHP reiterates its earlier request to the government to now enact a law to clear the way for building a grand temple of Lord Ram at his birthplace in Ayodhya. This may be done in the winter session of Parliament.” He also said his organization would intensify its campaign for the Ram temple and will mobilize support for the same.
The opposition Congress said the BJP was trying to polarize the electorate by the issue and it was the “same story every five years”. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, while speaking to reporters, said, “The Congress’s stated position is that the matter is before the Supreme Court and everyone should wait until the Supreme Court decides. We shouldn’t jump the gun.” Then taking a swipe at the prime minister, Narendra Modi, he said, “If someone asks for an ordinance (for the construction of the Ram temple), the prime minister should respond to them. But as you know, he won’t respond to any issue.”
Anand Sharma, another senior Congress leader, echoed Chidambaram. He said everyone should “patiently” wait for the final Supreme Court verdict.
Meanwhile, Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen and MP from Hyderabad, dared the Modi government to issue an ordinance to build a Ram temple over the disputed site. He said, “If they have the courage, they should bring an ordinance on Ram temple construction. They are trying to scare us about bringing an ordinance, why don't they bring it?”