The counsel for appellants and respondents on Friday traded barbs as a three-judge Supreme Court bench took up cross appeals against the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ayodhya title suit. The court took up the matter after seven years following an application filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy who had sought an urgent hearing of his prayer to enforce his right to worship in Ayodhya.
Swamy’s attempt to intervene did not apparently go down well with the Sunni Waqf Board, which said that former Chief Justice of India T S Thakur had dismissed his petition, saying he was a nobody in the case.
As Swamy stood up to speak, senior counsel Anup Chaudhary appearing for the Waqf board interrupted him repeatedly forcing Swamy to retort, “I didn’t know this is how lawyers behave with non-lawyers… What do you mean I’m a nobody.”
The BJP leader said he had become a party with the permission of the court. As the hearing proceeded, one of the counsel said heaven would not fall if the hearing did not begin on a particular date. To this Justice Dipak Misra said: “Heaven won’t fall is a powerful statement” and referred to a quote about “heaven” from a book by neurosurgeon Eben Alexander.
“It says if there is heaven, it won’t fall because if it has fallen, how can it be there and if it is there, it has not fallen,” he said in a lighter vein. Senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan, representing the waqf board, said if there was heaven, then Ram would have been born there not Ayodhya.
Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for Uttar Pradesh, said: “Let’s not be sarcastic about it.” Dhavan retorted he was not talking to Mehta but the latter said: “I am talking to you Mr Dhavan.”
The hearing also had its lighter moments when Justice Misra took exception to counsel Anup Chaudhary addressing the court loudly and told him to speak in a lower tone.
“I request counsel to maintain a low voice. I can hear… Remember that there is only 10-12 feet distance (between us),” the judge said referring to Chaudhary’s loud address.
Joining issue, Dhavan said: “I have a naturally loud and affectionate voice.” As the packed courtroom broke into laughter, Justice Misra added: “No, you are wrong.” Dhavan responded with the query: “Why, is it only affectionate?” inviting a second round of laughter. But Justice Misra was not the one to give up. “No, you should say affectionately loud,” he added.