Making clear it was treating appeals against the Allahabad High Court order on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya as a land dispute and that it did not intend to allow any third party intervention at this stage, the Supreme Court Thursday asked parties to the dispute to file English translation of documents exhibited by them. The matter will be heard next on March 14.
When a lawyer sought the court’s permission to intervene in the matter saying it involved the faith of crores of Hindus, the bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said: “We can’t address these kind of arguments. We are treating it as a land dispute. There are appeals and cross-appeals.”
To another lawyer, who was representing 32 activists and wanted to implead in the matter since they were “very concerned about the outcome of the case”, the bench said “applications for impleadment and intervention shall be considered at the appropriate time”.
It, however, allowed “interlocutory applications filed by parties to the appeals pertaining to filing of additional documents and exemption from filing official translation”. It also permitted “applications seeking filing of documents which have been exhibited before the High Court” and “applications for deletion of parties”.
As many as 14 appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court ruling on four civil suits on September 30, 2010.
The High Court ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board of UP, and Ramlalla Virajman, the idol of the child Ram placed there.
This was challenged before the Supreme Court which, on May 9, 2011, stayed operation of the decree during the pendency of the appeal, and ordered status quo at the disputed site. On Thursday, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, said a total of 524 exhibits had been filed in court besides 20 books. The books, he said, include the Ramayana, Ramcharitmanas and Bhagavad Gita.
The state had also translated and filed depositions of 87 witnesses apart from the report of the Archaeological Survey of India (which carried out an archaeological study of the disputed site) and relevant photographs, Mehta said.
Advocate Ejaz Maqbool, representing some of the appellant Muslim parties, said they could not understand contents of some books produced by the state and, hence, English translations should be filed. The other party said it will translate whatever was required and turn it over.
The bench agreed to this and said: “It is submitted by Mr Maqbool that certain books in appeals… though have been exhibited before the High Court, are in different languages, and, therefore, the first page of the book and the relied upon portion should be translated and be furnished to the court. As the books have been exhibited in entirety, it will be open to Mr Maqbool, after taking assistance from other counsel, to point out to the counsel for the other side the said part so that the same can also be translated in English. The books which are in English, they can be photocopied and can be handed over to the learned counsel for the respective parties.”
Though Mehta and Maqbool jointly made a plea for dismissing all intervention applications filed by people who were not party to the suit before the High Court, the bench said it was not entertaining any such application at this stage.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who also appeared for the Muslim parties, urged the court that it should hear the matter on day-to-day basis. He pointed out that the CJI sitting on Constitution benches had been breaking the bench frequently to attend to other matters as well and added that this would not work in the case of the present appeals.
At this, CJI Misra said he was breaking the Constitution bench to hear other matters as hundreds of poor citizens were waiting to have their matters heard and even devoting one hour or 90 minutes could settle many of those matters.
On the Ayodhya matter, the CJI said “on this case… it has to go on… we are conscious of this case”.
Dhavan objected to a lawyer who suggested that he start his arguments by making a proposition so that others can answer to it. “I will begin whichever way I want. I will argue, keeping in mind the importance of this case not only for the nation, but globally.” He said the “judgment of the High Court insults justice”.
Taking exception, Mehta told the court that “this kind of hyperbole should be avoided”.