The Supreme Court Monday asked the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to nominate two judicial officers as observers for the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya. The court directed that the officers be of the rank of Additional District Judges or Special Judges.
A three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, gave the direction after senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Allahabad High Court registry, informed it that one of the two officers — T M Khan and S K Singh serving as observers currently — had retired from service while the second was elevated as a judge of the High Court. He said it would be difficult for the High Court to spare a judge for the job, given the workload.
Dwivedi also handed to the court a list of Additional District Judges and Special Judges who could be considered for appointment as observers. “As the list is long, we think it appropriate that Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court shall nominate two persons from the cadre of Additional District Judges or Special Judges keeping in view the nature and tenor of the earlier orders passed in this case,” the bench said.
A copy of the order will be forwarded to the HC Registrar, the bench said, adding, “the Chief Justice is requested to nominate two names within ten days”. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the parties in the matter, opposed the demand, saying the existing observers were the best for the job as they had been doing it since 2003.
“Why should the court change them when they are here for 14 years? This is a very sensitive matter,” Sibal told the bench. He suggested that the court ask them if they were willing to continue and go ahead with replacements only if they said no.
The bench, however, said, “one of them is not holding a post and he cannot continue now… One of them has been elevated as a High Court judge. It is not proper that a HC judge is asked to go there and observe all the things. We can’t ask a HC judge to do this,” the bench said. The court has already set December 5 to begin final hearing on the cross-appeals challenging the 2010 order of the High Court, dividing the 2.77 acre disputed land between three parties — Ramlalla, Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara.