By Amiya Kumar Kushwaha New Delhi, Nov 10 : The seven-decade old Ayodhya land dispute was in limbo for nine years since it first reached the Supreme Court.
On May 8 2011, the top court stayed the Allahabad High Court order and started hearing the civil appeals filed by the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and RamLalla seeking claim on the disputed land. Unfortunately, the case kept being deferred date after date owing to multiple reasons.
When Justice Ranjan Gogoi took charge as the Chief Justice of India, he prioritised putting an end to one of the longest-running land dispute cases in the country. In fact, while recently hearing a matter related to the abrogation of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the Chief Justice said that the court had no time to hear other matters on account of busy hearings’ schedule in the Ayodhya land title case.
On January 8, 2019, Gogoi used a special administrative power under provisions of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and constituted a five-judge Bench comprising Justices Gogoi, S. A. Bobde, N.V.Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud, to hear the appeals.
Interestingly, this unprecedented move was contrary to the order passed by a bench headed by former Chief Justice Deepak Misra, who had turned down the plea to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench on September 27 2018.
Since the beginning, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was seen interested in bringing the seven-old decade case to an end and, hence, on January 10, he directed the registry to inspect the records and engage official translators, if necessary.
he matter, however, faced a setback on January 10 when Justices Ramana and Lalit recused themselves prompting the top court to reschedule the hearing for January 25 before a new bench. On January 25, the apex court reconstituted a five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Gogoi and Justices Bobde, Chandrachud, Bhushan and Nazeer, who have taken the case to a legal conclusion.
During the course of the hearings, the case saw many twists and turns, including the formation of a panel of mediators headed by former Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu.
When the mediators failed to settle the issue, the court began day-to-day-hearings on the case from August 6. During the course of these hearings, Justice Gogoi kept reminding the counsels to conclude their arguments as soon as possible. He also made it clear that the court would devote extra time to the case. On some days, the hearings went on till late evening.
In the middle of September, Gogoi asked the parties to wrap up the arguments by October 18. On October 16, he said “enough is enough,” asking the parties to end arguments on that day itself. His efforts of conducting the hearing in fast pace finally brought good news for the country when on November 9, the Supreme Court finally delivered the judgement in the case bringing the curtains down on a highly emotive issue.
(Amiya Kumar Kushwaha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)