A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will commence day-to-day hearing from today in the politically sensitive case of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya. The top court had decided to conduct the daily hearing after a three-member mediation panel, headed by former top court judge FMI Kalifulla, failed to find out an amicable resolution to the dispute.
The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer had on August 2 taken note of the report of the mediation proceedings which went on for about four months.
“The hearing which will be on day-to-day basis until the arguments are concluded will start with the appeals arising out of the two suits. The learned counsel(s)...in the appeals arising out of the aforesaid suits may, for the convenience of the court, indicate the pleadings and the evidence on which they propose to rely, so that the officials of the Registry can keep the said documents ready for perusal of the court,” the bench had said in its order.
The top court had on July 18, asked the mediation panel to inform the court about the outcome of their proceedings as on July 31.
The mediation panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, had said in its report that the Hindu and the Muslim parties have not been able to find a solution to the vexatious dispute.
The apex court, which on March 8 referred the matter for mediation, had asked for in-camera proceedings to be completed within eight weeks, but later granted time till August 15 after the panel’s earlier report said that the mediators were “optimistic” about an amicable solution.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties—the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.
The central government on January 29 this year moved the apex court seeking its nod to return the 67-acre undisputed acquired land around the disputed site to original owners.
The 0.313 acre plot, on which the disputed structure stood before it was demolished by ‘kar sevaks’ on December 6, 1992, was within the 2.77-acre disputed premises., the plea said.
The government had then acquired 67.703 acres, including the 2.77-acre plot, through a legislation in 1993. The Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN) is the owner of as much as 42 acres of the acquired non-disputed land.
The Centre’s plea said that the RJN (a trust to promote construction of Ram Temple) had also sought return of excess land acquired to original owners.
The Centre claimed that only 0.313 acre of land was disputed on which the structure stood before it was demolished by ‘kar sevaks’ on December 6, 1992.
A week later, another petition was filed challenging the constitutional validity of 1993 Central law on land acquisition in Ayodhya near the disputed site, contending that Parliament has no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to the state.
Seven individuals, including two Lucknow-based lawyers claiming to be devotees of Ram Lalla, said state legislature has exclusive power to make provisions on management of religious affairs inside its territory.
The plea said the Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993 Act infringes right to religion of Hindus guaranteed and protected by Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
With Agency Inputs