New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday declined early hearing of petitions in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul said it had already listed the appeals before the appropriate bench in January.

“We have already passed the order. The appeals are coming up in January. Permission declined,” the bench said while rejecting the request of early hearing of lawyer Barun Kumar Sinha, appearing for Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha.

In October, the Supreme Court had turned down a similar request from the Uttar Pradesh government and the lawyer who represents the deity Ram Lalla to take up the dispute after the Diwali break.

That decision was seen to have opened the possibility that the court may not deliver its verdict before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections expected to be held around April-May.

The top court’s stand has triggered sharp reactions from some Hindu groups and senior BJP leaders who are nudging the government not to wait for the top court’s verdict but bring in an ordinance to settle the dispute in favour of a Ram temple.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which had led the movement for the temple back in the nineties, had said the court’s decision had strengthened its view that people could not wait eternally for hearing of appeals.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), too, had made known that it was “upset” with the delay.

“The faith of crores of Hindus is linked to the issue. If it is not on top of the Supreme Court’s priority list, it is an insult to the Hindu community,” said RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi last week.

Union minister Uma Bharti, on the other hand, had warned that any talk of constructing a mosque within the periphery of Ayodhya can make Hindus “intolerant”. Her colleague Giriraj Singh has said no one can stop the construction of a Ram temple.

Minister of state for law and justice PP Chaudhary suggested that legal option must be explored as the title suit has been pending in the court for years, and Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya was the desire of “crores of Hindus”.

The court is hearing 14 petitions challenging a 2010 Allahabad high court decision that trifurcated the disputed site in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya town between Hindus, Muslims and the representatives of Ram Lalla, a petitioner.