The much-anticipated hearing in the Ayodhya Ram mandir- Babri masjid land title suit was adjourned yet again on Thursday till January 29 after Justice UU Lalit recused himself from the case, prompting protests and agitation outside the court.
The Supreme Court will now constitute a new five-judge bench before the next hearing.
Delay in getting accurate translations of the documents submitted as evidence was also the reason for the adjournment.
In his order, CJI Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the speculation on why the matter had been sent to a Constitution bench, and affirmed his power as ‘Master of the Roster’.
Senior advocate Rajiv Dhawan, who is representing one of the parties, raised arguments questioning the decision, arguing that former CJI Dipak Mishra had passed a judicial finding that there was no requirement for Constitutional bench.
Dhawan also asked why CJI Gogoi had taken an administrative decision to set up a five-judge bench.
CJI Gogoi, however, said that the Rules of Procedure of the Supreme Court allow the Chief Justice to take such a decision.
“It is always open for the Hon’ble Chief Justice to decide, having regard to the various relevant facts and circumstances, which cannot be exhaustively laid down, to constitute benches of such strength that the Hon’ble Chief Justice deems it proper,” the court noted in it’s order passed on Thursday.
It added that the CJI’s decision was ‘in no way contrary’ to the judgment passed by the former CJI.
Dhawan pointed that Justice Lalit, who was one of the judges on the bench, had appeared as an advocate in 1997 for former UP CM Kalyan Singh in a contempt case arising out of the Babri Masjid demolition. Justice Lalit then decided to recuse himself from the case.
The CJI also noted that the Supreme Court registry was looking into the translation of the documents submitted as evidence for this case.
The Allahabad High Court had examined 88 witnesses, with their statements running into 13,886 pages. As many as 257 other documents have also been taken on record, with all the original records totaling 15 trunksfull of documents.
The court has noted that it is not clear at present whether the translation of the documents, which are in Persian, Sanskrit, Arabic, Gurumukhi, Urdu and Hindi, is complete.
Meanwhile, politics and protests were brewing outside the court with the Hindu right wing groups questioning the delay in the hearing.
A group of right-wing activists shouted slogans outside the Supreme Court premises. The activists, who sported tilaks, were bundled into police vans and detained.