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Ayodhya dispute: SC to set up new bench after Justice Lalit recuses himself

The Supreme Court today fixed the next hearing in title suit in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute at Ayodhya for January 29 even as the five-judge Constitution bench is all set to be reconstituted after Justice U U Lalit recused himself from the case.
 
Justice Lalit's recusal from the case after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, the counsel for a Muslim party in the case, mentioned that he had appeared for former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh as a lawyer in a related case in 1994.
 
Mr. Dhavan, who spoke soon after the court assembled, made it clear, however, that he was not seeking Justice Lalit's recusal. 
 
Mr. Lalit, who was part of the five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, however, decided to recuse himself.
 
The others on the bench are Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud.
 
On January 4, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi had said that the bench which would hear the batch of cross petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment on the Ayodhya title suit would decide the future course of hearing in the matter.
 
Later, he had constituted the five-judge Constitution bench to hear the case.
 
The top court at the previous listing on October 29 had directed that the matter be listed in the "first week of January 2019 for fixing a date of hearing before the appropriate Bench".
 
The matter was listed on October 29 as directed by the top court on September 27.
 
The top court had on September 27, while rejecting the plea by Muslim litigants for referring the challenge to the 2010 High Court judgment to a larger five-judge constitution bench, had directed that the case be referred to a three-judge bench to begin hearing from October 29.
 
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The September 27 judgment rejecting the plea by Muslim litigants was by a majority of 2:1 wherein Chief Justice Dipak Misra (since retired) and Justice Ashok Bhushan declined the plea by Muslim litigants and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer favoured referring the matter to a larger constitution bench. 
 
The Allahabad High Court had in 2010 trifurcated the disputed site, giving one portion each to Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and the original Muslim litigant.
 
It was contended by the Muslim litigants before the three-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice Misra that the challenge to the 2010 verdict should be heard by the larger bench as the High court had relied on a 1994 top court judgment that said a mosque was not essential to Islam for offering Namaz prayers.
 
Meanwhile, various Hindu organisations have been demanding that the Government issue an ordinance on early construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. 
 
In an interview to a news agency earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made it clear that any such move could happen only  after the completion of the judicial process.
 
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Registry has been given the huge task of examining all the case records of the matter, lying in 15 sealed trunks, and ensure they are in order and that translations of documents in languages such as Pali, Urdu, Arabic and Sanskrit are available.
 
NNN
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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