New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned the hearing in the Ayodhya case as Justice U.U. Lalit recused from the Constitution bench that was set up on Tuesday. Justice Lalit, as a lawyer, had appeared in a connected matter in 1997. A new bench will now be formed to hear the case. The court also directed the registry to engage official translators and submit a report regarding correctness of the case documents by 25 January. The registry was also asked to make an assessment of the time required to make the case ready for hearing.
Ayodhya case: Supreme Court adjourns matter as Justice Lalit recuses
The registry will be going through records stored in 15 sealed trunks in a sealed room running over thousands of pages. Once this process is complete, a new bench will be formed to hear the case.
Regarding setting up of a Constitution bench as opposed to a smaller bench, chief justice Gogoi said it was an administrative decision taken by him under his capacity as the chief justice.
Senior advocate, Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for a Muslim party, told the court that Justice U.U. Lalit had appeared for Kalyan Singh in a 1997 case and it would be conflict of interest for him to hear this issue.
A five-member Constitutional bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud was formed on Tuesday to hear the Ramjanmabhoomi-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. Subsequently, the bench was constituted by CJI Gogoi on Tuesday.
The issue could become central to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, further polarising voters.
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 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 build a mosque in a Muslim-dominated area, at a reasonable distance from the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site.