CJI to head 3-judge bench on Ayodhya plea hearing

Attorney General also to be present before the Supreme Court

CJI to head 3-judge bench on Ayodhya plea hearing

Justice Kapadia’s decision follows sharp differences between the two judges, Justice R V Raveendran and Justice H L Gokhale, who heard the deferment plea on September 23, when the apex court issued an interim stay on the Allahabad court’s proposed September 24 verdict.

The petition will now be heard by a three-judge bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and K S Radhakrishnan apart from the CJI. The special hearing of the deferment plea will also be significant due to the presence of Attorney General Ghulam E Vahanvati before the Supreme Court, as it is for the first time the country’s top law officer has been asked to be present during the hearing of a case.

The hearing also gains significance in the wake of the retirement of Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, one of the members of the three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court, on October 1. Justice D V Sharma, along with Justices S U Khan and Sudhir Agarwal, has been hearing the arguments of 26 litigants on the title suit on a day-to-day basis since January this year.

If Justice Sharma retires at the end of the month without delivering the judgment, the case will be heard by a fresh bench. There is, however, speculation that he may be given an extension if the apex court further extends the stay on the verdict on Tuesday, giving time to the parties for negotiation.

The apex court hearing may also have an intervention plea filed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), all too eager for a quick court order on the issue. Ruling out any chances of an out-of-court settlement to the title suit of 2.77 acres of land at Ayodhya, senior AIMPLB member Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahali said there was no possibility of an amicable settlement. “Several attempts were made in the past to resolve the matter but all of them failed,” he added.

The Board is also against any deferment of the Ayodhya verdict. “The AIMPLB will make this clear in its application to the apex court,” Senior Board member Zafaryab Jilani said in Lucknow, hinting at the filing of the intervention petition.

The deferment plea was filed by Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, a retired UP bureaucrat, who contended that the verdict on September 24 by the Allahabad High Court would disrupt communal harmony in the wake of Assembly elections in sensitive states like Bihar.

Another reason cited by him was the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi from October 3. He also suggested exploring chances of settling the matter amicably out of court.

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