Ayodhya Case: SC reserves its Judgement on Babri Masjid Dispute after 40 days of hearing

Ayodhya Case: The Supreme Court’s Five Judge-Constitutional Bench on October 16, 2019 reserved its judgement on the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid land dispute case after an interminable hearing that lasted for over 40 days. The apex court extensively heard the arguments of all the three litigants - Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board and Muslim parties. This day to day hearing began on August 6, 2019 after the mediation penal led by the former SC-judge Justice F M Khalifullah failed to reach to a conclusion.

This is the second-longest hearing in the history of Supreme Court after the landmark Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala case in which hearings lasted for 68 days. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court made it clear that Ayodhya Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid Case hearing will end at 5 pm today on Oct 16, 2019. The CJI Ranjan Gogoi led 5-judges constitutional bench of SC rejected the demand for more time for arguments and said "We ll rise by 5 PM. Enough is Enough". 

As the Ayodhya Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid Case hearing entered in the final week that started on August 6, 2019, the Ayodhya administrator had imposed Section 144 in Ayodhya district that will last till December 10. Section 144 prohibits any assembly of four or more persons.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had fixed October 18, 2019 as the deadline for the conclusion of hearings in the Ram janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute. The decision indicates the Supreme Court’s keenness in delivering the verdict in Ayodhya case before CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s retirement in November 2019.

The constitution bench hearing the Ayodhya dispute is headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, who is set to retire on November 17, 2019. If the judgement on the case is not delivered before the CJI’s retirement, then the entire case would have to be heard afresh with a new judge replacing Justice Gogoi.

The SC bench had earlier sought a tentative time frame from all the concerned parties for the completion of their arguments in the Ayodhya land dispute case so that the judges could estimate how much time they would have to write the judgement. After consulting all the parties and getting their tentative timeframes, the five-judge constitution bench decided to set October 18 as the deadline.

The CJI said that the Supreme Court bench is willing to put in extra hours to complete the hearings in the Ayodhya case before the set deadline. “Let us make a joint effort to conclude the same by Oct 18. If need be, we can extend our sitting by an hour”, CJI Ranjan Gogoi appealed to all the parties and their lawyers.

The constitution bench also reopened the possibility of mediation to resolve the decades-old issue and stated that the concerned parties are free to mediate and come to a settlement during this time. The mediation panel had earlier written to the constitution bench after it received a letter from one of the parties asking the panel to give mediation one more shot.

Background

The five-judge constitution bench began daily hearings of the Ram janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute from August 2019 to fast-track the case, after the Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel failed to get all the parties to agree to an amicable resolution in the issue.

The mediation panel headed by former SC Judge FM Kalifulla also comprises spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. The mediation proceedings had begun in March and the panel submitted its report to the constitution bench on August 1.  

According to the mediation panel, some of the parties have shown interest in continuing the mediation process. The Supreme Court has given a go-ahead to the mediation process but the hearings in the court will continue as planned.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing petitions from all the concerned parties challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya will be divided equally among the three major parties-  Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Waqf Board and Ram Lalla. 

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