NEW DELHI – The Supreme Court Friday said it would wrap up hearing in the politically sensitive Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute at Ayodhya by October 17, a day sooner than the earlier schedule.
A 5-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on the conclusion of 37th day of the hearing, fixed the schedule for the final leg of the lengthy arguments.
The Muslim side would complete the arguments on October 14, it said, adding that thereafter, two days would be granted to the Hindu parties to sum up their rejoinders — October 16.
October 17 would be the last day for wrapping up the hearing when the parties will have to make the final arguments about the relief they are seeking, the court said.
The bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, had earlier fixed the deadline of October 18 to conclude the hearing.
The judgement in the matter is to be pronounced by November 17, the day the CJI will retire.
The bench gave an extra hour every day to the hearing this week, during which it did not allow the counsel for the parties to deviate from the time slot allotted to them.
The top court also warned the parties that no fresh evidence would be allowed to be placed before it and all the parties have to strictly make their rejoinders on the basis of the records and submissions made before the Allahabad High Court.
The apex court on September 26 had asked both Hindu and Muslim parties to specify the time-frame for completing arguments in the matter and had said that there will not be any extra day for hearing after October 18 — the deadline it had set on September 18.
It had said that there are holidays in October for Dussehera and Diwali and only one advocate of the four Hindu parties will be allowed to give the rejoinder arguments.
The apex court had on August 6 commenced day-to-day proceedings in the case as the mediation proceedings initiated to find the amicable resolution had failed.
The court had taken note of the report of the three-member panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, that mediation proceedings, which went on for about four months, did not result in any final settlement and it had to decide the matter pending before it.
The court, which had on March 8 referred the matter for mediation, had asked for in-camera proceedings to be completed within eight weeks, but later granted time till August 15 after the panel’s earlier report said the mediators were “optimistic” about an amicable solution.
The top court fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements, including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel should be forthwith arranged by the state government.
It had perused a report about the progress of mediation process till July 18 and said its contents will remain confidential.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished, sparking communal riots in the country. (PTI)