SC sets up five-judge bench to hear Ayodhya dispute

SC sets up five-judge bench to hear Ayodhya dispute

The Supreme Court. File photo

In a surprising decision, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set up a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to hear the matter pertaining to Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on January 10.

The bench would also comprise Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud.

The CJI's decision to constitute a Constitution bench came in contrast to the September 27 judgement by a three-judge bench presided by then CJI Dipak Misra which by a majority view of 2:1 declined to set up a larger bench.

Muslims side represented by advocate Ejaz Maqbool, in an immediate reaction, welcomed it. He said the CJI is empowered to send any matter directly to a Constitution bench without a reference.

“It should have been done earlier as the Ayodhya dispute involved the issue of national importance which would determine the course of secular India,” he said.

According to a notice put on the Supreme Court's website on Tuesday, the matter would be listed on Thursday, January 10 at 10.30 am before the Constitution bench.

A batch of appeals has been pending before the top court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement, which ordered that the 2.77-acre land will be partitioned equally among three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

On September 27, the Supreme Court by a majority view of 2:1 rejected a vociferous 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.

The Hindu sides, supported by the Uttar Pradesh government had described the plea for reference to the larger bench as a delaying tactic made to stave off the determination of the dispute.