The Supreme Court of India on October 29, 2018 adjourned the hearing on pleas challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid site title dispute to January 2019.
The decision was taken by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph. The apex court will in January fix the date for commencing hearing on the matter. Hence, the hearing may be in January, February, March or anytime after that, as per clarification by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The court stated that an appropriate bench, which will be constituted to hear the matter, will decide the date of the hearing. The decision comes nearly a month after a ruling by SC that there was no need to look into the top court’s observations in its 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam.
• The top court listed the string of appeals against the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid dispute in the first week of January 2019 for fixing the date of hearing by an appropriate bench.
• The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the state of UP, had urged that in view of the nature of the dispute, it may be taken up on an earlier occasion.
• The appeals against the 2010 judgement of Allahabad High Court were listed before the bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph under the caption “direction matters”.
• However, the Supreme Court in its four-minute hearing decided to delay the hearing till 2019.
• The top court justified its decision by saying that it had more matters in the pipeline that require an urgent hearing.
On September 27, 2018, the Supreme Court declined to refer the 1994 Ismail Farooqui judgment that mosques are not integral to Islam to a larger constitution bench.
The judgement was delivered by a three-judge bench with 2: 1 majority. The majority judgement was written by Justice Ashok Bhushan on behalf of himself and Chief Justice Deepak Misra. The third judge, Justice Abdul Nazeer presented a dissenting judgment.
In the majority verdict, the apex court bench said that the present case on Ayodhya land dispute shall be decided on its own facts and the Ismail Farooqui judgment would have no impact on it.
Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the majority judgement on behalf of himself and the CJI, said that the court has to find out the context in which the five-judge had delivered the 1994 judgement.
He said that the statement in Faruqui case was in the limited context of immunity claimed by the petitioners for the mosque from acquisition and added that it need not be read broadly to mean mosque can never be essential to practise of Islam.
Justice S Abdul Nazeer disagreed with the two judges and said whether a mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering belief of religion and it requires detailed consideration.
The order paved the way for the apex court to hear the main Ayodhya land dispute. The bench said that the civil suit on the land dispute will be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29, as CJI Misra was scheduled to retire from his post on October 2.
The issue whether a mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when the three-judge SC bench headed by CJI Misra was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court's 2010 verdict by which the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area was to be divided in three parts.
The Allahabad high court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered that the 2.77 acres of land be divided equally among the three concerned parties -the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha.
In 1994, the Supreme Court had ruled that namaz or prayers could be offered anywhere and that a mosque was not necessary.
This cleared the way for the government to acquire the land where the 16th century Babri mosque was demolished by large crowd of Hindu Kar Sevaks. The site is considered by some of Hindus to be Ram Janmabhoomi, or the birthplace of Lord Ram and so they feel that a Ram temple should be built at the site.
According to various muslim organisations, the decades-old verdict played a big role in the disputed land in Ayodhya being divided in 2010 into three parts by the Allahabad High Court.
The organisations argue that the “sweeping” observation of the apex court in the 1994 verdict needed to be reconsidered by a five-judge bench as “it had and will have a bearing” on the Babri Masjid-Ram Temple land dispute case.
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