The Supreme Court will hear appeals in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue on February 26. An official notice said it will be taken up by the bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer at 10.30 am that day.
The bench was due to consider the matter on January 29 to fix the schedule for further hearing. However, the hearing was cancelled due to non-availability of Justice Bobde.
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CJI Gogoi had on January 8 constituted a five-judge bench comprising himself and Justices Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and Chandrachud to hear the appeals challenging the September 30, 2010 verdict of Allahabad High Court which ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77-acres site between the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Uttar Pradesh, and Ramlalla Virajman.
This bench sat on January 10 to fix the schedule for hearing but could not proceed further after Senior Counsel Rajeev Dhavan, representing a party supporting the Babri Mosque, pointed out that Justice Lalit had appeared as counsel for BJP leader Kalyan Singh — who was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Masjid was demolished — in a contempt matter related to the demolition in 1997.
Following this, Justice Lalit decided to recuse and the CJI decided to set up a new bench to hear the matter. The CJI reconstituted the bench on January 25 with the inclusion of Justices Bhushan and Nazeer in place of Justices Lalit and Ramana and decided to hear it on January 29.
Justices Bhushan and Nazeer were part of a three-judge bench along with the then CJI (retirement) Dipak Misra which took up the case last year. However, the bench could not commence hearing on the appeals as it had to first decide on a plea by Dhavan to refer the 1994 judgement of the apex court in the M Ismail Faruqui and Others vs Union of India case for reconsideration to a Constitution bench.
The objection was to a comment in the judgment that a mosque was not an essential part of the practice of Islam, and hence could be acquired by the state. The Faruqui judgment came on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act-1993, under which 67.703 acres were acquired in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex.
On September 27, 2018, the bench headed by then CJI Misra rejected Dhavan’s plea by a 2-1 verdict. While CJI Misra and Justice Bhushan turned down the demand, Justice Nazeer dissented.