SC defers Ayodhya verdict

Petitioner has Congress links; apex court to hear matter on Sept 28

SC defers Ayodhya verdict

At a time when the country was awaiting the Lucknow Bench’s verdict with bated breath, the Supreme Court stepped in to grant time to the 27 litigants till September 28 to try reconciliation and negotiation for a final settlement of the 60-year-old dispute centred on whether the site should be given to Hindus or returned to the Muslims.

The apex court stayed the verdict while hearing a special leave petition filed by Ramesh Chandra Tripathi who is believed to have some links with the Congress. A retired bureaucrat, Tripathi had filed the petition challenging the order of the Allahabad High Court that had earlier dismissed his plea to defer the prounoun-cement of the order.

A three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, comprising Justices S U Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and D V Sharma, was scheduled to pronounce the judgment on Friday at 3.30 pm on the title suit related to 2.77 acres of land at Ayodhya.

Following one hour of arguments by the advocates appearing for four parties, a Bench of Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhale stayed the Lucknow Bench’s yet-to-be-delivered verdict till September 28 when it would hear the matter again.

The Bench asked the parties to file their response by the next date of hearing keeping in mind that one of the judges of the three-Judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court —Justice Dharam Veer Sharma—was retiring on October 1.

The Bench also sought the assistance of Attorney General Ghulam E Vahanvati to assist it in the case. Justice Raveendran was in favour of dismissing Tripathi’s petition, but Justice Gokhale said that a last chance be given to the parties to reconcile and negotiate the dispute in public interest. “One of the members on the Bench was in favour of notice to the parties. One member was not in favour of it. Keeping the tradition of this court, notice is issued to the parties,’’ the order, pronounced in a packed courtroom, said.

“If anything goes wrong, (the) consequences will be for the ordinary people. You are aware of the history. You will blame us if anything adverse happens,’’ said Justice Gokhale.

Tripathi’s petition was contested by senior advocate Anoop G Chaudhary, who appeared for the Sunni Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, and by Ravi Shankar Prasad for Dharmadas Paramahans.

They submitted that enough opportunities had been granted to the parties for a mediated settlement of the dispute and that there should be no further delay in the pronouncement of the Lucknow Bench’s judgment.

But Justice Gokhale reasoned by saying that ‘’The High Court has failed. It is referred to the Supreme Court. The court cannot run away from its responsibility. When it is an appeal, it is different.’’

Appearing for Tripathi, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi argued for deferring the verdict, saying that “it is a religious issue and two religious communities are involved”. Reminding the Court that “everybody knows what happened in the aftermath of the (December 6), 1992 incident”, Rohtagi feared that the High Court’s verdict on September 24 “will lead to serious problems”. He added that the “country is facing a large number of problems such as floods, Kashmir and the Commonwealth Games”.

But Justice Raveendran asked: “Why do you think the people of this country are so immature? Everybody thinks people are immature. Do you think they are not mature enough to accept the judgement of the (High) Court?”

When Rohtagi referred to the religious passions that were ignited following the demolition of the Babri mosque and the consequent riots, Justice Raveendran said: “Religious passion will be raised if people try to raise them”.

Tripathi’s counsel Sunil Jain said that “the pronoucement of the judgement may lead to communal riots in Uttar Pradesh as well as other parts of India. It is evident that the entire Kashmir valley is in turmoil and is witnessing deaths every day”.

Tripathi’s petition pointed out that “it is important to note the upcoming Commonwealth Games” whose venues are in the national capital region (NCR), including UP, and the forthcoming Assembly elections in “the most communally sensitive state, Bihar”.

School, college holidays revoked

The State government has cancelled the two-day holiday declared for schools and colleges on September 24 and September 25 in the wake of the Supreme Court deferring by a week the pronouncement of the Ayodhya verdict by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

“Schools and colleges will function as usual. The holiday notification has been withdrawn. We will take an appropriate decision on  security measures when the Supreme Court announces the next date of the verdict,” Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa told reporters in Bangalore on Thursday. Several institutions like St Joseph’s Indian High School, Bangalore, will take a call depending on the students’ attendance on Friday.

“There is a lot of confusion among the students as well as the teachers. It is difficult to inform the students in the last minute. If they turn up tomorrow, we will conduct classes,” said Gilbert Saldanha, the principal of the school.

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