The deferment of the matter fuelled demands for an ordinance within the BJP and various groups linked to its ideological mentor RSS.
New Delhi: The Ayodhya temple-mosque dispute will be taken up in the first week of January, the Supreme Court said on Monday, virtually ruling out any chance of a decision on the vexed issue any time before the Lok Sabha polls in May 2019.
“We have our own priorities… whether hearing would take place in January, March or April would be decided by an appropriate bench,” said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, rejecting the Uttar Pradesh government’s plea for an urgent hearing on the ground that it was a 100-year-old dispute.
Hinting that the court may conduct daily hearings in the matter from January 2019, the bench, including Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph, clarified that the appeals would come up in January first week before a bench “not for hearing but for fixing the date of hearing”.
The deferment of the matter fuelled demands for an ordinance within the BJP and various groups linked to its ideological mentor RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).
A three-judge bench headed by the former CJI Dipak Misra had on September 27 rejected the plea to re-open the 1994 ruling which held that a mosque is not an essential aspect of Islam and namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open. The court had held that this ruling “does not require reconsideration by a Constitution Bench”.
The court had rejected the arguments that the observations made by the Constitution Bench in 1994 had influenced the decisions made by the Allahabad High Court in 2010 while allocating two-third share of the disputed site in Ayodhya to Hindus and one-third to Sunni Wakf board.
The court had said that the questionable observations came to be made in the conclusion that places of religious worship like mosques, churches, temples etc. can be acquired under the state’s sovereign power of acquisition. Such acquisition per se does not violate either Article 25 or Article 26 of the Constitution. The court held that a three judge Bench would hear the appeals in the title dispute on October 29.
As many as 14 appeals have been filed against the Allahabad high court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77 acre land be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The apex court’s decision on Monday to put off the matter till January disappointed many Hindu groups, which had hoped for a day-to-day hearing to start in their quest to build a Ram temple on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood and was destroyed on December 6, 1994.
Immediately, there was a chorus of demands from within the BJP and various Sangh Parivar outfits that the Centre bring an Ordinance or legislation in the Winter session of Parliament for early construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
“The Sangh believes that a Ram Temple should be constructed early at the birthplace of (Lord Ram) and should get land for temple construction at the birthplace. With the construction of the temple, an atmosphere of unity and harmony will be created,” RSS chief spokesperson Arun Kumar said in a statement.
The Centre said it had full faith in the judiciary and fully respects it. Outlining the government’s stand, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, at the same time, said a lot of people in the country want the case to be heard quickly.
Union minister and senior BJP leader Giriraj Singh said that Hindus are “running out of patience” on the Ram temple issue while his party colleague Vinay Katiyar alleged that the issue was being delayed “under pressure” from the Congress, which denied the charge.
Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram, however, observed that it was a familiar story every five years before the elections when the BJP tries to polarise the issue.