Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute: Counsels argue over which bench is to judge

Submissions and arguments in the Ayodhya land dispute case resumed at the Supreme Court on Friday (April 27) before the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer. With senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan unwell, senior counsel Raju Ramachandran took permission to begin his submissions and said that this case has been treated as a not-very-important case. He said he would give 9-10 judgments of this court, wherein apart from Article 145, this court on various occasions considered the matters important. He said that because of the sensitivity of the case, law and order was affected not only in Ayodhya but also in other areas. He said that this case was considered of extraordinary importance in the high court. He reiterated that the Supreme Court was hearing a first appeal in a case of such magnitude wherein a full bench was constituted in the high court. He said that therefore it is appropriate that a bench of five judges decides the matter. He pointed at the provision of court rules. He said: “This court has published a handbook of procedure wherein there are relevant rules regarding cases to be listed before a higher bench.” Trying to explain how important the issue is, he said major political parties have published their own white paper, explaining their point of view. Matter has occupied important discourse. He asked if it was possible to clinically separate the issues. This is the civil suit. In the context in which these suits, which has become part of history, that the necessary judiciary citus shall be given by 5 judges of this court. Senior advocate Harish Salve from respondents’ side said “this country has moved away from the events of 1922. Lordships will decide this on the evidence and strictly on law. This now is a property dispute, debating over whether the property belongs to A or B. It is a title suit. Otherwise would have been heard by a bench of two”. Since this was important, it was put before three judges, he said. He said that this is purely a property matter. Only constitutional matters go to a five-judge bench, not property matters. He said this was not a constitutionally important matter. The court said the arguments will continue. Next date is May 15.

—India Legal Bureau