Monday, 30th October 2017

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New Ayodhya bench

Since the majority decision has a binding effect, hearing in the land case is now scheduled to begin on October 29

By Our Legal Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 28.10.18, 1:05 AM
  • Updated 28.10.18, 1:05 AM
  • a min read
Supreme Court (Prem Singh)

A new three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will on Monday take up a batch of appeals challenging the 2010 judgment of Allahabad High Court splitting the disputed Ayodhya land among Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara.

Besides the CJI, the bench has Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph.

On September 27 another three-judge bench of then CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer had by a 2:1 majority declined to entertain the Muslim group’s plea for referral of the issue to a five-judge constitution bench on the ground that certain “questionable observations” made by another five-judge bench in 1994 had influenced the Allahabad High Court verdict of 2010.

On September 27 this year the three-judge bench headed by Justice Misra had refused to refer to a larger bench the “questionable observation” of the five-judge bench that shrines are not an “integral” or “essential” part of a religion unless special significance is attached to the place.

The 2:1 split verdict has a bearing on the land dispute. Had the court sent the matter to a larger bench, the hearing could have been delayed.

However, since the majority decision has a binding effect, hearing in the land case is now scheduled to begin on October 29.

The issue holds pivotal political significance as it could have a bearing on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Sections of the Sangh parivar have been suggesting that the petitioners who wanted the question of the importance of shrines in religion to be referred to a larger bench were trying to delay the verdict in the land dispute case.

In the September 27 judgment then CJI Misra and Justice Bhushan had said the matter need not be referred to a constitution bench.

“We again make it clear that the questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui’s case were made in the context of land acquisition. Those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals,” said Justice Bhushan, reading out the operative part of the judgment written for the then CJI and himself.

But the dissenting judge, Justice Nazeer, had said the matter ought to be referred to a constitution bench as the 1994 observation had influenced the opinion of Allahabad High Court in 2010.