In a move that could see the Ayodhya issue not decided before the Lok Sabha elections, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the listing of the Ram Janmabhoomi title suit matter for an appropriate bench that will fix the dates in January 2019 for the hearing of a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict trifurcating the disputed site.
During a brief hearing, a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph gave its decision on the petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court ruling by which the disputed site in Ayodhya was divided into three parts — for Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and the original Muslim litigant.
“We have our own priorities. Whether the case will come in January, February or March, it will be for the appropriate bench to decide,” CJI Gogoi said as a lawyer urged the court to decide on the dates when the hearing on a challenge to the High Court judgment will take place.
The listing of the matter for January could prolong the hearing in the case for a few months — by when the country would be in election mode due to general elections due in April-May 2019.
On September 27, the top court bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, along with Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, by a 2:1 majority rejected the plea that the challenge to the 2010 verdict is heard by a bench of five judges.
It was contended by the Muslim litigants before the three-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice Misra that the challenge to the 2010 verdict should be heard by a larger bench as the High court had relied on 1994 apex court judgment that said that mosque was not essential to Islam for offering Namaz prayers.
Rejecting the plea for hearing by a larger five-judge bench, then Chief Justice Misra and his colleagues on September 27 directed that the matter is listed for October 29 hearing.