CJI empowered to constitute bench of any strength: SC

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought to quell the speculations as to why and how the five-judge Constitution bench was set up to deal with the 2010 appeals related to the Ayodhya dispute.

It maintained the Chief Justice of India was empowered to constitute a bench of any number of judges, having regard to facts and circumstances of a particular case. However, the rules prescribed that it should not be less than two-judge bench.

“The decision to post the matter before a five judges bench had been taken by the Chief Justice on the administrative side in exercise of his powers under Order VI rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 which mandates that “every cause, appeal or matter shall be heard by a Bench consisting of not less than two Judges nominated by the Chief Justice.”,” a five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

During the hearing, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a party on Muslim side, referred to speculations prevailing as to why the matter has now been fixed before a five-judge bench though a three-judge bench had on September 27, 2018 expressly directed that the matter be listed before a three-judge bench.

“Order VI rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 prescribes the minimum numerical strength of the bench and it is always open for the Chief Justice to decide having regard to the various relevant facts and circumstances, which cannot be exhaustively laid down, to constitute benches of such strength that the the Chief Justice deems it proper,” the five-judge bench explained.

“This is how the present bench of five Judges has been constituted which is, in no way, contrary to what has been laid down by the three-judges bench in the judgment of September 27, 2018,” the bench added.

On September 27, the Supreme Court by a majority view of 2:1 rejected the demand by the Muslims side to refer the matter to a larger bench for a reconsideration of a 1994 verdict which held a "mosque is not an essential part of the practice of Islam". The Muslim sides had contended that the previous judgement would have an adverse impact on adjudication of the matter.

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CJI empowered to constitute bench of any strength: SC

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