• Ayodhya Hearing : SC Adjourns Matter To Jan 29 After Justice Lalit Recuses From Bench

    Live Law News Network

    January 10, 2019

    Dramatic twist happened in the Ayodhya hearing today in the Supreme Court, when Justice U U Lalit expressed that he was recusing from hearing the matter.

    His decision to recuse followed the submission of Rajeev Dhawan, Senior Advocate appearing for Sunni Waqf Board, that Justice Lalit had appeared for former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh in a contempt matter related to Babri Masjid case.

    "I am just bringing it to your lordship's notice. We don't have any objection to him hearing the matter. It is entirely up to your lordships", Dhawan said.

    Dhawan's submission took the five judges' bench surprise, and all of them entered into mutual discussions following it. After a while, CJI Gogoi informed that Justice Lalit told the other members of the bench that it would not seem appropriate for him to hear the matter, although the Kalyan Singh's case was unrelated to the merits of the Ayodhya land dispute case.

    CJI Gogoi further said that the matter was listed before Constitution Bench by invoking the administrative powers of CJI as per Supreme Court Rules. He further said that it was not contrary to the three judges' bench decision of last Septmeber which had declined to refer the case to Constitution Bench.

    CJI's clarification came after Dhawan submitted that the listing before Constitution Bench was not done following proper procedure.

    The bench had assembled today to fix the hearing date and not to hear the matter, the CJI said in the beginning itself.

    On September 27, a three judges bench of the then CJI Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Abdul Nazeer had decided by 2:1 majority that there was no need to refer the matter to larger bench. The request for reference was made by Senior Advocate Dhavan on the premise that the observation in the Constitution Bench judgment in Ismail Faruqui case that "offering namaz in mosque is not an essential feature of Islam" required reconsideration. The majority of the then CJI Misra and Justice Bhushan opined that the said observation in Faruqui was not relevant in determining the title dispute of Ayodhya-Babri Masjid land. The majority held that the observations in Faruqui were made in the context of deciding the issue whether a mosque could claim immunity from land acquisition proceedings. However, dissenting from this view, Justice Abdul Nazeer held that the observations in Faruqui case influenced the High Court decision in the title suit, and hence required reconsideration by a larger bench. After declining the plea for reference to larger bench, the majority had fixed the next date of hearing as October 29.

    On October 29, the SC had said that the matter will be listed in the first week of January for fixing the date of hearing.

    On January 4, the bench of CJI Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul decided to post the matter on January 10 'before appropriate bench' to fix the hearing date.

    In December 2017, a plea for postponing the hearing after 2019 Lok Sabha polls was made by Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan and Dushyant Dave, on the ground that the political climate was not conducive for hearing the dispute. However, the bench of the then CJI Misra turned down the plea, after a dramatic hearing session.


    First published in Live Law.

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