A five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi will hear the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on January 10. The other four judges are Justice SA Bobde, Justice NV Ramana, Justice UU Lalit and Justice DY Chandrachud.
The Constitution bench will hear a clutch of 14 appeals challenging a 2010 Allahabad High Court order of a three-way division of the disputed 2.77-acre the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and the Ramlalla Virajman.
When the matter was taken up on January 4, there was no indication that the land dispute case would be referred to a constitution bench as the apex court had simply said that further orders in the matter would be passed on January 10 by “the appropriate bench, as may be constituted”.
The newly set up five-judge bench comprises not only the incumbent CJI but the four judges who are in line to be CJI in the future. Justice Gogoi’s successor would be Justice Bobde followed by Justices Ramana, Lalit and Chandrachud.
In October last year, the top court had declined the Uttar Pradesh government’s request to take up the matter urgently. Prior to that a statement in the Faruqui judgment that a mosque was not an “essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam” was challenged in the Supreme Court. However, the SC rejected this in a majority 2-1 verdict on September 27, 2018.
The court observed, “To conclude, we again make it clear that questionable observations made in Ismail Faruqui’s case were made in the context of land acquisition…(and that) those observations were neither relevant for deciding the suits nor relevant for deciding these appeals.”
Various Hindutva organisations have been demanding an ordinance on early construction of Ram temple at the disputed site. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that any decision on an ordinance on Ram temple in Ayodhya can happen only after the completion of the judicial process.