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SC reconstitutes bench to hear Ayodhya land dispute

Last updated on: January 25, 2019 20:51 IST

A new five-judge Constitution Bench was constituted in the Supreme Court on Friday to hear the politically sensitive Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute in Ayodhya.

The bench was re-constituted as Justice U U Lalit, who was a member of the original bench had recused himself from hearing the matter.

The new bench comprises Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

 

Justice N V Ramana, who was in the bench which last heard the matter on January 10, is also not a member in the new bench.

Justice Bhushan is also a new member in the bench.

A notice sent by the Supreme Court registry to various parties said that the Ayodhya dispute matter will be listed on Thursday, January 29, 2019, in 'Chief Justice's court before the constitution bench comprising the CJI, and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer'.

Justices Bhushan and Nazeer were part of the 3-judge bench, then headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra (since retired), which on September 27, 2018 gave a 2:1 verdict refusing to refer to a 5-judge Constitution Bench reconsideration of the observation in its 1994 judgement that a mosque was not integral to Islam. The matter arose during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.

Justice Nazeer had delivered a minority judgment.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land be partitioned equally among three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

On January 10, the bench in its order had noted that Secretary General of the apex court registry has informed the CJI that in four suits, out of which these appeals have arisen, in all 120 issues have been framed for trial and a total of 88 witnesses were examined.

It had noted that depositions of witnesses run into 13,886 pages and a total of 257 documents exhibited.

While the order was being dictated, one of the counsel had pointed that number of exhibits were 533, including three archaeological reports.

The bench had noted that the high court's verdict ran into 4,304 printed pages, which according to the registry, are 8,533 typed pages.

"The bench has been informed that the original records are lying in 15 sealed trunks in a room, which has also been sealed. Whether the depositions and documents which are in Persian, Sanskrit, Arabic, Gurumukhi, Urdu and Hindi, etc have been translated is not clear," it said.

It had said the apex court, in its August 10, 2015 order, had indicated that though counsel for parties had attempted to submit some translated version of evidence, 'there is a dispute with regard to the correctness of the translations made'.

"In these circumstances, the registry of this court is directed to physically inspect the records which are lying under lock and key; make an assessment of the time that will be taken to make the cases ready for hearing by engaging, if required, official translators of the requisite number and give a report thereof to the court," the order said.

"The said report will be submitted to this court by the registry on January 29, 2019 when the reconstituted bench (without Uday Umesh Lalit, J), as may be, will assemble once again to take up the matter for further orders," it said.

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