After hearing arguments from various parties over the past 40 days, the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday reserved its verdict in the Ayodhya land title dispute case. A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, had started daily hearing on the matter from August 6, and midway through the proceedings, requested the advocates to finish their arguments latest by October 18. The judgment in the case is likely to be pronounced by November 17, when CJI Gogoi will demit office.
The five-judge Constitution Bench, which also has Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, and Abdul Nazeer, had started hearing the case on August 6 after a court-appointed panel led by SC judge (retired) Justice F M I Kalifulla failed to find a solution through mediation.
There are 14 cases in total which have been heard by the apex court. Among the 14 cases is also a challenge to a 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, which had ruled that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya should be partitioned equally between the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara, and Ram Lalla. The first case was filed as early as 1950, when Gopal Singh Visharad, a devotee of ‘Ram Lalla’, sought enforcement of the right to worship for Hindus at the disputed site.
The hearing on Wednesday also saw major courtroom drama as senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the Muslim parties, tore up certain documents, including a map, that were handed over by a Hindu party. The map, a part of the book Ayodhya Revisited, allegedly shows the spot which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. The map was handed by the Hindu party to the court and the opposing counsels to buttress their claim about the birthplace.
The courtroom drama on the last day was not the sole incident to happen over the past 40 hearings in the contentious Ram Temple-Babri Masjid hearing. The very first day of hearing on August 6 saw a clash between Dhavan and CJI Gogoi, when the former got up to object to the submissions made by Nirmohi Akhara. CJI Gogoi objected to the same and asked him to make his submissions when his turn to speak came.
“Mr Dhavan, please maintain the dignity of the court,” CJI Gogoi had then told him, adding there was a way to answer questions asked by the court.
Among other notable incidents during these 40 hearings was also a letter written to Dhavan by Chennai-based 88-year-old Professor Shanmugham, in which the latter had cursed him with physical harm for appearing for Muslim parties and betraying his faith. A contempt-of-court case was started against the professor, but was later dropped after he apologised to the court.
On September 20, fearing paucity of time, the SC had decided to sit an hour more each day and rise at 5 pm instead of the scheduled time. Earlier in August, the five-judge Bench had already decided to hear the case on all five days (Monday through Friday) instead of just the ‘non-miscellaneous’ days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday).
On Wednesday, the five-judge Bench also granted all the parties three days to file written notes on ‘moulding of relief’ or narrowing down the issues on which the court is required to adjudicate.