SC to form 5-judge bench to hear Ayodhya case

The Supreme court. Reuters file photo

A new bench of five judges at Supreme Court would now reassemble on January 29 to fix the schedule of hearing in Ayodhya's Ram temple and Babri Masjid dispute. The bench was headed by the CJI and comprised Justice S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud, all the future chief justices.

The development came as one of the judges of the Constitution bench recused on being told that he had represented one of the parties as a counsel in a connected case in 1997.

Immediately after the bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi sat to take up the 2010 batch of appeal, Muslims side led by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that Justice U U Lalit had earlier appeared for then UP CM Kalyan Singh in the contempt case. 

Though he says he had no objection, if Justice Lalit continued to be a part of the bench, the latter preferred to recuse.

The court said a new bench of five judges would now be constituted again to take up the matter on January 29.

 

Hindu side was represented by senior advocates Harish Salve, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, senior advocates Ranjit Kumar, C S Vaidyanathan and P S Narasimha.

Salve, for his part, maintained that there was no problem if Justice Lalit continued to hear the matter but the latter withdrew to participate in the hearing.

During the proceedings, Dhavan further pointed out there was speculation as to what led to the setting up of a Constitution bench since a three-judge bench had on September 27 declined such a request. He also said there was neither a reference to set up a Constitution bench.

On this, the court cited the Supreme Court Rules of 2013, to assert that it was always the CJI to constitute a bench in every case which should not be of the strength of lesser than two judges. 

Having regard to facts and circumstances of the present matter, the present bench of five judges was set up, the court said, adding, in the case, 120 issues were framed in four suits, 88 witnesses were examined, their depositions ran into 13,886 pages, 257 documents were exhibited and the high court judgement was of more than 8533 pages.

The court also noted that the original records were kept in 15 sealed trunks in a sealed room.

It finally directed its registry to make an assessment if the case was ready for hearing and ascertain if the documents of Persian, Sanskrit, Arabic, Gurmukhi, Urdu and Hindi were translated.

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SC to form 5-judge bench to hear Ayodhya case

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