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SC to hear Ayodhya’s Ram-Janmabhoomi-Babri masjid land dispute matter on February 26

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday decided to hear on February 26 the politically sensitive Ayodhya’s Ram-Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid land dispute matter.

It will be heard by a five-judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

The apex court on January 27 had cancelled the scheduled hearing for January 29 as Justice Bobde was not available that day.

The fresh notice issued by the apex court registry said all the petitions in Ayodhya land dispute will come up for hearing on February 26.

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.

The five-judge bench was re-constituted on January 25 as Justice U U Lalit, who was a member of the original bench, had recused himself from hearing the matter.

When the new bench was constituted, Justice N V Ramana was excluded from the re-constitution bench.

Justices Bhushan and Nazeer made a come back to hear the Ayodhya land dispute matter — both were part of an earlier bench headed by then CJI Dipak Misra (now retired).

It had on September 27, 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.

On January 10, Justice Lalit had recused himself after expressing disinclination to participate in the hearing any further as he had appeared as a lawyer for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in a related matter “sometime in the year 1997”.

Along with the main matters, the constitution bench will also hear the connected issues raised in separate petitions.The central government had on January 29 moved the apex court seeking its nod to return the 67-acre undisputed acquired land around the disputed site to original owners.

The 0.313 acre plot, on which the disputed structure stood before it was demolished by ‘kar sevaks’ on December 6, 1992, was within the 2.77-acre disputed premises, the plea filed by the BJP-led NDA government had said.

The government had then acquired 67.703 acres, including the 2.77-acre plot, through a legislation in 1993. The Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN) is the owner of as much as 42 acres of the acquired non-disputed land.

The Centre’s plea has said that the RJN (a trust to promote construction of Ram Temple) had also sought return of excess land acquired to original owners.

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