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Ayodhya verdict on Thursday, Supreme Court dismisses deferment plea

The Supreme Court has dismissed the plea seeking deferment of the verdict on Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit by the Allahabad high court.

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The Allahabad high court will deliver its verdict in the 60-year-old Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit on Thursday after the Supreme Court today cleared the path by dismissing a petition for its deferment ending the uncertainty.
     
A three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad high court will pronounce the verdict in the Ayodhya case on September 30 at 3.30 pm, the officer on special duty (OSD) Hari Shankar Dubey said in Lucknow, shortly after the Apex Court lifted its week-long interim stay given last Thursday.

The Supreme Court's three-judge bench headed by chief justice SH Kapadia gave a brief unanimous order dimissing the petition by a retired bureaucrat Ramesh Chandra Tripathi challenging the Lucknow Bench order rejecting his plea for postponing the keenly waited judgement to explore the possibility of mediation.

The bench also comprising justices Aftab Alam and KS Radhakrishnan however did not give any reasons for its order giving the green signal for the high court verdict after two hours of arguments.

"Having considered in detail the arguments of the parties, we are of the view that the SLP has to be dismissed. Accordingly, the SLP stands dismissed," it said. 

During arguments on the Special Leave Petition, the bench questioned the plea for deferment of the verdict. 

"You are running against time because you woke up late. That is after 50 years," justice Aftab Alam said. 

"The question is why you were quiet for all these days. You had to strike a chord when the matter was in the high court," justice Alam said.

The observations by the bench came when senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tripathi, was buttressing the argument that a settlement could be arrived at through negotiations.

Answering the bench for the delay in exploring an out-of-court settlement, Rohatgi said mediation was not a part of the statute.

Justice Alam said lawyers of all the contesting parties are at least in agreement on the issue of delivery of judgment by the Allahabad high court.

The September 30 date fixed by the Lucknow Bench assumes importance since one of the judges of the three-member bench,
justice DV Sharma, is to demit office on October one.

The other judges in the bench are justice SU Khan and Sudhir
Agarwal.

Earlier, attorney general GE Vahanvati, who was asked by the apex court to assist it in today's hearing, said that uncertainty should not be allowed to continue.

The Supreme Court decision was welcomed by the main contesting parties to the title suit as well as the Centre and
all political parties including the Congress, BJP and the Left.

Appealing for calm, the government and the political parties said the high court verdict should be respected.

"We welcome the (SC)verdict" was the refrain of all sections.

Political parties also underscored that there was an option of approaching the apex court by any of the parties to the title suit after the HC verdict. 

The Supreme Court has taken the "right decision" since an overwhelming majority did not want the verdict to be further deferred, law and justice minister Veerappa Moily said. The
verdict was to have been originally pronounced on September
24.

Vahanvati said the most preferred solution to the Ayodhya problem would be settlement but it has not taken place and the uncertainty which is prevailing should not be allowed to continue.

"This has been the view of the Centre and this is my view also," he said.

"Settlement, if there is any possiblity, we welcome it but we do not want any uncertainty," the AG said.

Since 1999, the stand of the Union government has been for settlement which has not taken place, he said. 

"We would like a resolution of the matter in one way or the other. We cannot keep the law and order machinery in sustained animation," Vahanvati said.

Counsels pleading for deferment of the verdict said the court and the government could try innovative approach to evolve an out-of-court settlement.

However, counsels for all the parties to the dispute except Nirmohi Akhara opposed the plea for deferment. 

They said judicial function cannot be made a hostage to the negative consequences which has been cited by Tripathi.

Amplifying his arguments, Vahanvati said "My position is very clear. I am of the view for implementation of the decision of the suit. This is what we have to do as per the mandate of 1994".

Vahanvati said this while making a reference to the verdict of the Constitutional bench on the land acquisition at the disputed site in Ayodhya. 

He refuted the allegations of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who was appearing for Tripathi, that the Centre sat meekly and only stood as a receiver of the disputed land.

Vahanvati said the Government was committed to maintain the rule of law and was under obligation of the undertaking given by it to the apex court on September 14, 1994 that it will make attempts to resolve the issue through continuous negotiations.

The attorney general also countered the allegations of Rohatgi that it was not "pro-active" in attempting to resolve the dispute through settlement and process of negotiation. 

He said government believed in respecting the rule of law. He also countered the argument that the tenure of one of the retiring judges could be extended as the Centre has no power in this regard, which is vested with the chief justice of the high court and only to a certain extent recommendations can be made by the apex court collegium.

Rohatgi said the dispute was an emotional issue and the apex court and government should take some "innovative" and "proactive approach" to evolve a mediated settlement.

He said when the government came out with a Land Acquisition Act in 1993, its objective was to arrive at a negotiated settlement so that a temple, a mosque and a library be constructed at the disputed site.

"Since 1993, government was moving on a secular path to provide heeling touch to both communities to co-exist together which has been done for centuries," Rohatgi said adding that "this was the objective of the Government in 1993".

"State has no religion and it treats everyone with the same brush. The purpose of the acquisition of land (2.77 acre) was to maintain communal harmony by making temple, mosque and a library at the site," he said.

While seeking deferment of the judgement, the senior advocate made reference of a apex court verdict which has been stayed for over ten years.

He was referring to the verdict on Moharram procession in Doshipura in Varanasi which is still stayed. 

"Public order is the requirement of the day," he said maintaining that "a last ditch effort should be made by the Centre and the apex court".

On fears that the retirement of one of the three judges of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court shortly could result in de novo hearing of the case, he said there are ways in which the government could overcome the problem. 

He said either the retiring judge could be re-appointed or his judgement could be pronounced by the successor judge.

Rohatgi contended that there could be no title suit pending after the government acquisition of the land in 1993. 

He said the three judges of the Lucknow bench also agreed on the need for a mediated settlement and had fixed September 24 as deadline. But the dispute was such an emotional issue that a timeline cannot work.

The senior lawyer, however, said that all the parties to the title suit except the Nirmohi Akhara are against the deferment of the HC verdict on the issue.

Advocate Sushil Kumar Jain, appearing for the Nirmohi Akhara, said that the local population of Ayodhya was for the negotiated settlement but the problem was arising due to the interference of the outsiders and political parties. 

He said the akhara was not for the deferment sine die but for a time-bound adjournment of the verdict.

Opposing the plea of Tripathi, a counsel for the Sunni Wakf Board said his petition was motivated and should not be entertained at this stage.

The lawyer contended that there must be an element of settlement which is acceptable to all the parties to resolve the dispute "and sadly, this is missing here".

He said Tripathi was making "expansive arguments" for publicity and there was no chance of "miracle" or "magic" that a settlement could be reached which has eluded the parties for over 50 years.

Senior advocate Ravi Shankar Prasad, appearing for Mahant Dharamdas, said "He (Tripathi) is a non-serious party" who did not appear regularly before the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court during the protracted hearing.
 
He said the plea that the pronouncement of the verdict may lead to adverse consequences should not be considered.

"If this arguments of consequences is accepted then even a bail plea could have a negative consequence," he said.

He said, "The high court judges did try and made repeated attempts to resolve the dispute but did not succeed."

The senior lawyer said that no more time is required to be given to the parties for an out-of-court settlement. 

"The element of settlement is absent nor it is acceptable to parties," he said. 

Former attorney general Soli Sorabjee, who appeared for one of the parties, agreed with Prasad and said "judicial function cannot be made hostage to consequences." 

Sorabjee said that the out-of-court settlement was tried even by several former prime ministers -- V P Singh, Chandrashekhar, P V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihar Vajpayee -- but they could not succeed.

"We are hundred per cent for the settlement, but also hundred per cent against the plea the judgement be deferred," he said adding that today the issue of Commonwealth Games has been raised for deferment of judgement, tomorrow the scheduled visit of US President Barack Obama on November would be raised.

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