Ayodhya hearing from 6 Aug: With CJI Gogoi retiring in November, chances high for early resolution of dispute

  • A three-member mediation panel headed by former SC Judge FMI Kallifulla was formed in March this year, and included Sri Sri Ravishankar and Sriram Panchu as members

  • The Supreme Court said Friday that the three-member mediation panel has failed in its effort to find an agreement between various parties involved in Ayodhya dispute

  • Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi ruled that the case would now be heard on a day-to-day basis, actually three days a week from 6 August

  • The key question now is — whether or not Chief Justice Gogoi will script history on Ayodhya before his retirement on 17 November

  • If the verdict is not given by the current bench till then, the whole process would begin afresh after the appointment of a new Chief Justice

The Supreme Court said Friday that the three-member mediation panel has failed in its effort to find an agreement between various parties involved in Ayodhya dispute. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi ruled that the case would now be heard on a day-to-day basis, actually three days — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — every week from 6 August.

The order should gladden hearts of Hindu groups and vast mass Ram Mandir supporters for this is precisely what they were asking for. The Hindu groups had from day one — since the three-member mediation panel headed by former Supreme Court Judge FMI Kallifulla, and included Sri Sri Ravishankar and Sriram Panchu as members, was formed in March this year — opposed to the mediation process and had called it a delaying process. They had always insisted for day-to-day hearing and early disposal of the case.

 Ayodhya hearing from 6 Aug: With CJI Gogoi retiring in November, chances high for early resolution of dispute

A painting on the wall of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. Image: Saurabh Sharma/101Reporters

The order leaves no scope for grudge among the Muslim groups who are a party to the case and their sympathisers in the so-called "secularist" parties. In December 2017, arguing before a bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal had pleaded that the matter should be deferred till July 2019, till the conclusion of the parliamentary elections. His argument was that the dispute had wider (political) implications. Though he didn’t say in as many words, his message was clear that the hearing and potential verdict would be beneficial to the BJP. The court had then ruled that day-to-day hearing on the case would start from 8 February 2018.

The arguments made by Sibal and some senior counsels Rajeev Dhawan and Dushyant Dave remained etched in public memory. The day-to-day hearing couldn’t take place as scheduled. Since Sibal had made this eloquent argument in the Supreme Court in the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately picked it up and made an electoral issue.

It is a matter of great coincidence that Sibal's 6 December 2017 prayer has now turned into reality. The Congress and other so-called liberalist parties thus have no ground left to complain about the order, at least for now.

The apex court order that case on the ownership of 2.77 acres land at the disputed site would be heard on a day-to-day basis from next week has once again raised high hopes of an early verdict.

Though no time has been given for the conclusion of the hearing, one of the reasons why Hindu groups hope for an early verdict is because CJI Gogoi is retiring on 17 November. It is speculated that the CJI may like to conclude the hearing and give judgment before he retires.

If the verdict is not given by the current bench till then, the whole process would begin afresh after the appointment of a new Chief Justice. Justice SA Bobde is next in line for the post as per the seniority list.

Last year, when then CJI Misra had scheduled day-to-day hearing from February, it was speculated that he might like to finish this case before he retired on 2 October 2018. That didn’t happen.

One has to see how the case progresses in the next three-and-half months of the CJI Gogoi's tenure.

The BJP, which since the time it adopted a political resolution of Ram temple dispute in its Palampur convention in 1989, is committing to build a grand temple in Ayodhya. The party owes its current high to LK Advani’s Somnath to Ayodhya Ram Rath Yatra in 1990. It calls it a matter of faith for them. Both the Modi government at the Centre and the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh are keen to have an early judicial settlement on the dispute.

In an interview in the run-up to the recently held parliamentary elections when there was a lot of speculation about an ordinance on the Ayodhya dispute, Modi had said that the government would first like to see which way the judicial verdict on the dispute, which is associated with the faith of millions in the country, goes.

At the political level, pro-Hindutava elements often ask how long one has to wait, particularly when Modi government (second term full majority) is firmly placed at the Centre and a full majority Adityanath government (with over three-fourth majority) in Uttar Pradesh. Today’s order by the Supreme Court gives a boost to that hope.

As of date, a de-facto (makeshift) Ram temple exists in Ayodhya and daily puja is conducted by a designated priest. The entire Ramjanambhoomi-Barbri Masjid premise of 66 acres, particularly 2.77 acres is heavily guarded by central and state police.

It is believed that irrespective of the court verdict, given the sentiments of the majority community and the current status of the site, it would practically be impossible for any administration to shift the Ram Lalla idol from its current place.

In October 2010, a three-judge bench comprising Justices SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and DV Sharma of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court in a majority judgment had ruled that there be a three-way division of the disputed land, one-third for the Sunni Waqf Board, one-third for the Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the party for 'Ram Lalla'. All three judges were in agreement that the portion below the central dome under which the Ram Lalla idol is placed in a makeshift temple belongs to Hindus.

The key question now is — whether or not Chief Justice Gogoi will script history on Ayodhya before his retirement on 17 November.

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Updated Date: Aug 03, 2019 07:36:25 IST