New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Sunday cancelled the 29 January hearing in the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya land title dispute case as a member of the five-judge Constitution bench, Justice SA Bobde, will not be available on the scheduled day. This is as per a notice issued by the apex court’s registry.

“Take notice that due to non availability of Justice SA Bobde on 29 January 2019 (Tuesday), sitting of Constitution bench in Chief Justice’s court, comprising the Chief Justice, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, stands cancelled. “Therefore, Constitution bench matter will not be taken up for hearing,” the notice stated.

BJP promises law for Ayodhya Ram temple

But on the same day of this announcement by the court, BJP national secretary Sunil Deodhar, who led the party to victory in last year’s Tripura election, said the government would make a law to build a grand temple of Lord Rama in Ayodhya if the verdict of the Supreme Court on the matter did not go in favour of the Hindu side.

Speaking to reporters after a party meet in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, Deodhar said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that a temple will be built. Enacting a law (for constructing Ram temple) can be considered only after the verdict of the court. If the verdict of the Supreme Court is not in favour, then an ordinance will be enacted, and if the verdict of the apex court is favourable, then the temple will be definitely constructed.”

He said “when the case is going on in the Supreme Court, enacting an ordinance will not be constitutional”.

The senior BJP leader said that “our vaadaa (promise), iraadaa (determination) and niyat (intention) is that a grand temple for Lord Ram should be constructed at his birthplace.”

“Hindutva and development are ‘antarnihit‘ (inherent). Hindutva and development are two sides of the same coin. Hindutva is a way of life. Fighting for Hindutva means fighting for development, and fighting for development means fighting for Hindutva,” he added.

Supreme rigmarole

The five-judge bench was re-constituted on 25 January as Justice UU Lalit, who was a member of the original bench, had recused himself from hearing the matter on 10 January as he had appeared as a lawyer for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in a related matter “sometime in the year 1997”. When the new bench was constituted, Justice NV Ramana was excluded from the re-constitution bench, too, without citing any reason.

Besides the CJI, the new bench comprises justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer. In the fresh bench, justices Bhushan and Nazeer made a comeback to hear the matter. Both of them were part of a earlier bench headed by then CJI Dipak Misra (now retired). It had on 27 September 2018, refused to refer to a five-judge Constitution bench the reconsideration of the observation in its 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam.

While Misra and Bhushan had said it has to find out the context in which the five-judge bench had delivered the 1994 judgment, Justice Nazeer had given a minority verdict disagreeing with the two judges. Nazeer had said whether a mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering religious belief which requires detailed consideration.

The senior BJP leader said that ‘our vaadaa (promise), iraadaa (determination) and niyat (intention) is that a grand temple for Lord Ram should be constructed at his birthplace.’

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 three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

On 10 January, the bench in its order had noted that the apex court registry’s secretary general has informed the CJI that in four suits, out of which these appeals have arisen, in all 120 issues have been framed for trial and a total of 88 witnesses were examined.

It had noted that depositions of witnesses run into 13,886 pages and a total of 257 documents exhibited.