Ayodhya case: Supreme Court adjourns matter as Justice Lalit recuses
Justice Lalit, as a lawyer, had appeared in a connected matter in 1997. A new bench will now be formed to hear the case
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case after Justice U.U. Lalit recused himself from the Constitution bench set up on Tuesday. Lalit recused himself since he had appeared as a lawyer in a related matter in 1997.
A new bench will now have to be formed to hear the case.
The court also directed the registry to engage official translators and submit a report regarding the correctness of the case documents by 25 January. The registry was also asked to assess the time required to make the case ready for hearing.
The registry will be going through records stored in 15 sealed trunks running over thousands of pages. Once this process is complete, a new bench will be formed to hear the case.
Regarding the setting up of a Constitution bench to hear the case, as opposed to a smaller bench, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that it was an administrative decision taken by him in his capacity as the chief justice.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, who appeared for some Muslim parties in the title dispute, told the court that Justice Lalit had represented former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh in a 1997 case, and it would be a conflict of interest for him to hear this issue.
A five-member Constitution bench, comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud, was formed on Tuesday to start hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case.
On 4 January, the court had said that further orders in the case will be passed by an appropriate bench on 10 January.
The case has been on the back burner for a while despite attempts by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy, an intervener in the case, to get an early hearing.
The apex court will hear 13 appeals filed against a 2010 Allahabad high court order mandating a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram), represented by the Hindu Mahasabha.
A civil suit for deciding the title of the property on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished on 6 December 1992, had been filed before the Lucknow bench of the high court.
The Supreme Court had stayed the order in 2011. The Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh had told the apex court in August 2018 that it was amenable to building a mosque in a Muslim-dominated area, at a reasonable distance from the disputed site.
The case will be next heard on 29 January.
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