60 years & counting, Supreme Court prolongs Ayodhya agony

The agony of the wait for the Ayodhya dispute verdict will continue. Throwing a dampener on the anticipation on the judgment behind the disputed structure at Ayodhya, the Supreme Court on Thursday put off the announcement of the verdict by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court by five more days. It was scheduled for the 30/09/2010.

However, with the apex court bench hearing a petition on the deferment of the verdict deciding to shift it to a larger bench, the wait could be much longer. In its written order, a divided bench of justices R Raveendran and HL Gokhale said that “in view of the difference”, the petition should be placed before chief justice SH Kapadia “for constituting a larger bench”.

The petition was filed by Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, who had pleaded for delaying the verdict in the 60-year-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute to allow an amicable settlement. Earlier, a three-judge bench of the Allahabad high court had rejected his plea and imposed “exemplary costs” of Rs50,000 on Tripathi, terming his effort for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute as a “mischievous attempt”.

Hearing his plea in an overcrowded courtroom, the bench expressed differences on its merit. While justice Raveendran favoured rejection of Tripathi’s petition, justice Gokhale felt that if there was even one percent chance for a settlement, it was worth a try.

The bench’s move may have long-term consequences on the case. In case the Allahabad high court fails to deliver the judgment by the month-end, the matter may have to be heard again as one of the three judges of the Lucknow bench, justice Dharamveer Sharma, retires on October 1. Justice Gokhale, however, sought to allay such fears, saying there were enough constitutional safeguards to meet such eventualities. The court’s move has evoked mixed reactions across the political strata. While Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said the party has maintained that this issue should be resolved through mutual dialogue, the BJP did not see any merit in the decision, saying, “How can a stranger, who is a non-serious party, disrupt the verdict?”


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