This was the first time there was no Minority judge in a bench hearing a significant matter related to the Ayodhya case.
A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SA Bobde, Justice NV Ramana, Justice UU Lalit, Justice DY Chandrachud were scheduled to decide the date when they will begin hearing the 14 appeals in the case. When Rajeev Dhavan, lawyer for Babri Masjid side pointed out that Justice Lalit had appeared as a lawyer for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in a related matter, Justice Uday Lalit recused himself from the case. Although, Dhavan clarified that he was not seeking Justice Lalit’s recusal, the judge separated from the hearing in the matter.
Justice Uday U Lalit was also a lawyer of Amit Shah
Justice Uday U Lalit used to practise law in Gujarat High Court before become justice in the Supreme Court. He has defended Amit Shah in infamous fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife and Tulsi Prajapati. In July, 2014, he became justice of the Supreme Court after Modi took to power of New Delhi.
The panel headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had recommended his name. According to media reports, he has also been a prosecutor in the 2G scam case. Lalit is a resident of Maharashtra and he started his practice in 1983. He has worked with former attorney general Soli Sorabjee from 1986 to 1992. They fought all criminal cases. He also fought the case against Hasan Ali Khan, accused of money laundering.
Next Hearing on January 29
The Supreme Court Thursday adjourned the Ram Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir land title dispute after Justice Lalit opted out from the case till January 29 when it will decide the schedule of hearing in the case.
Dhavan also raised an objection to the fact that the matter was earlier fixed for hearing before a three-judge bench but the CJI took a decision to list it before a five-judge Constitution Bench. He also said that there was a need for a judicial order to set up a five-judge Constitution bench.
The CJI, however, said in view of the facts and circumstances of the matter and the voluminous records pertaining to it, this was a fit case for constituting a five-judge bench. He also said that the court rules mandate that any bench should comprise two judges and there was nothing wrong in constituting a five-judge Constitution bench.
Appeals against the September 30, 2010 decision of the Allahabad High Court — which accepted that the disputed site was birthplace of Lord Ram and ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman — have been pending since December of that year.
On October 29 last year, the bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and K M Joseph had refused to grant the Uttar Pradesh government counsel’s request for urgent hearing of the appeals in the case. The bench had ordered that the appeals be listed in the first week of January before an “appropriate bench” which it said would decide the date of hearing.
The hearing comes amid demands by right-wing organisations, including the RSS, for an early decision on the dispute. Demands seeking an ordinance for construction of a Ram temple have also gained momentum.