On Monday, Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned why the Supreme Court, which had acknowledged the urgency in hearing and delivering a verdict on cases such as Sabrimala, adultery and 'Urban Naxals' and had even delivered a ruling post midnight on the Karnataka trust vote, could not extend the same courtesy to the Ayodhya case, which was a matter of faith for millions of Indians.
While making the statement, Prasad clarified that he was speaking as a concerned citizen of India, not the law minister. But now, the question is, can his statement, a critique on the Supreme Court's attitude towards the Ram temple case, be really considered one by an ordinary citizen or as one from a Union minister?
By adding that he was speaking as a citizen was Prasad attempting to avoid an unnecessary controversy — an undesirable government versus judiciary debate — at a time when the nation is already in the election mode. To this end, he added that the people of the country appreciated the urgency the court had shown to the cases mentioned above, but that they expected the same kind of urgency on the Ram temple dispute.
The Supreme Court has cancelled the hearing of the Ayodhya title dispute case, which was scheduled for 29 January, because one of the judges on the five-judge bench is not available that day. It has not announced a date for the next hearing yet.
Some of the past hearings in the Ayodhya case did not last beyond few minutes. The little that was discussed was limited to only mentioning that a fresh Constitution Bench was being formed in the case and the date of next hearing.
It should also be noted that Prasad's statement, blaming the Supreme Court for delaying resolving the Ayodhya dispute, comes three days ahead of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-sponsored Dharm Sansad at the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj.
Hindu seers and VHP leaders have been demanding that the government frame an ordinance and hand over the "Ram Janambhoomi" site to the Hindutva group to construct a grand Ram temple. They have been agitated over the perceived inaction of the Narendra Modi government on the issue, but for tactical reasons, they have not been confrontational with the Central and Uttar Pradesh governments.
Prasad had been a lawyer of "Ramlala Virajman" — made a party to the case — when the Allahabad High Court heard the matter. In 2010, though the court had ruled that the land be divided in three parts, the verdict was broadly favorable to Hindu groups. A review petitioned was soon filed in the Supreme Court, and the case has been pending since then.
On the Supreme Court's stance on the Ayodhya case, the law minister's position today is broadly in sync with those of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and his deputy Bhaiyaji Joshi. Bhagwat and Joshi have both been critical of the top court's delay in hearing the case. At a public function in November last year, the RSS chief Bhagwat had said justice delayed was justice denied.
On 29 October, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had observed while deferring the matter to January: "We have our own priorities. Whether the hearing will take place in January, March or April will be decided by an appropriate bench."
His statement became a subject of debate, both public and private.
In his New Year's Day interview, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said: "A triple talaq ordinance was framed after the Supreme Court verdict. In its manifesto, the BJP had said it wound find a solution to this issue in accordance with the Constitution. Nobody can deny that those who had been sitting in the government for the past 70 years had tried their best to stall the Ram temple construction. Even today, the matter is before the Supreme Court. In a way, it has reached its final stage... Let the judicial process end. After that, whatever be our responsibility as the government, we are ready to make all efforts."
Modi had also accused the Congress of "creating obstacles" in the apex court, referring to party leader Kapil Sibal's argument in the Supreme Court in the case.
Prasad's statement could be seen as an extension to what Modi had said. The minister appears to be reiterating his party's commitment to constructing the Ram mandir, suggesting that the government will resolve the matter only after Supreme Court delivers its verdict.
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Updated Date: Jan 28, 2019 16:24:34 IST