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Daily hearings in the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya before a Constitution bench have concluded on the 40th day of sittings today and the Supreme Court has reserved verdict in the case. The bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer will have to pronounce the ruling by November 17 as the CJI will retire on that date. If the judgment is not delivered before his retirement, the entire matter would have to be heard afresh.

Earlier in the day, CJI Gogoi  had said the court would rise at 5 p.m.. “Enough is enough”,  he had said after a lawyer asked the top court for more time for arguments in the Ayodhya case.The Court finished hearing all arguments in the Ayodhya case one hour before the deadline that the CJI had set in the morning. . All parties can submit their written notes over the next three days.  Hearings had started on August 6, with arguments being made on behalf of the several hindu parties and later the muslim sides.

The bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer will have to pronounce the ruling by November 17 as the CJI will retire on that date. If the judgment is not delivered before his retirement, the entire matter would have to be heard afresh.

The CJI has previously said the bench will have only four weeks to write the judgment and it will be a “miracle” if the court delivers the judgment in this time frame.

The court had sped up the hearing in the case that was pending for decades and conducted day-to-day hearing, including miscellaneous days reserved for other matters, to ensure that the bench arrives at a verdict.

The top court is hearing appeals against the September 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. The high court had divided the disputed 2.77 acres of land, including the spot where the Babri Masjid stood until December 6, 1992, and the area around it, equally among the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman. The bid to arrive at a negotiated settlement to the dispute via a mediation process failed after Ramlalla Virajman said no to further mediation. Days later, the side arguing for the mosque also turned down an invitation by the Supreme Court-appointed mediators.

With the closing in of the verdict, the Ayodhya administration has tightened curbs imposed under Section 144 till December 10.

–India Legal Bureau

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