Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Hearing: Who Said What? [Also Read Today's Order]

Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Hearing: Who Said What?  [Also Read Today

The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice Ashok Bhushan on Tuesday directed the 13 appeals from the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid matter to be listed for further hearing on February 8.

The arguments on Tuesday at 2 pm began with senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of petitioner Sunni Waqf Board, submitting,

“On August 11, the apex court had granted 12 weeks’ time for filing English translations of all exhibits. However, even the documents pertaining to the depositions and the pleadings in the title suits before the trial court are not complete. As per the office report of the Registry, the service of process has not been effected in numerous appeals. There are 19,000 documents that are needed to be brought on record. We need time to prepare and argue the matter”.

Sibal further continued, “These appeals have been pending since 2010. What is the sudden urgency now for an early hearing thereof and that too on a day-to-day basis? Also, why have the connected contempt proceedings in the wake of the demolition of Babri Masjid not been taken up for hearing?”

The senior counsel referred to the 2014 election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party in so much as the party promised therein to undertake the reconstruction of a temple devoted to Lord Rama at the disputed sight in Ayodhya. “Please set the date for further hearing on July 15, 2019, after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. We promise we will not seek adjournments on any grounds then,” he said.

Supporting Sibal, senior counsel Rajiv Dhawan argued,

“The apex court needs to look into the facts and the outcome in the 4 suits that form the origin of the present appeals. This hearing cannot be rushed. I will myself need 4-5 months to argue the matter.”

Further, Dhawan relied on the 5-judge bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of Dr M Ismail Faruqui & Ors v Union Of India & Ors [(1994) 6 SCC 360] in so far as it was held therein that

“there can be no reason to hold that a mosque has a unique or special status, higher than that of the places of worship of other religions in secular India... A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and Namaz by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open... It is neither more nor less than that of the places of worship of the other religions.”

In view of the same, Dhawan submitted,

“The present bench of 3 judges shall be bound by this ratio in the Ismail Faruqui case, the same having been rendered by a larger constitutional bench of 5 judges. Therefore, considering the tremendous significance of the present matter and the widespread ramifications that it could have, it is necessary that the matter be referred to a bigger bench of 5 or 7 judges.”

In response to the above contention, senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Ram Janmabhoomi Trust, remarked, “The matter before this bench is a first appeal. This is the just the first round. If during the course of the hearing, the issue of the significance of the status of a mosque resurfaces, then a larger bench may be constituted. In the landmark judgment of the Kesavananda Bharati case, a 13-judge bench ruled in favour of referring only substantial Constitutional matters to large benches of 5, 7 or more judges”.

In retort, senior counsel Dushyant Dave said,

“Mr. Salve has himself made the identical argument for reference to a larger bench numerous times. This matter should be heard by a bench comprising of 7 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. That will send out a strong message”.

The bench perused the status report pertaining to the filing of documents in the 13 appeals before the top court and fixed February 8, 2018, for the matter to be next listed for further hearing.

From the Order;

".... we are compelled to note that Mr. Sibal, Dr. Dhavan and Mr. Dushyant Dave sought leave of this Court to recuse themselves from proceeding with the argument. We declined the said permission and we must say, that they accepted. If we permit ourselves to say so, the submission was shocking and surprising and when we proceeded to record so, prayer was made not to do so and we, accepting the fervent request made by the counsel, refrain from recording so.

The Advocates-on-Record appearing for the parties have assured this Court that they will sit together, work in harmony and will see to it that the documents are filed within a time frame, if not already filed. If any part of the pleadings are required to be exchanged, that should be exchanged so that there will be no adjournment on this score, and hearing in the case can commence. The documents shall be numbered by the Advocates-on-Record. They shall file a common memorandum when all documents are ready. If there is any problem, they may contact the Registry of this Court. If required, the Registry shall permit inspection of documents by Advocates-on-Record for both sides".

Read the Order Here