Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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Posted at: Dec 7, 2017, 12:35 AM; last updated: Dec 7, 2017, 12:35 AM (IST)

Not out of court

Politics and law on Ayodhya
Not out of court
THE Supreme Court had no choice but to deny the Sunni Waqf  Board’s plea to postpone the hearing in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute/case till after the next Lok Sabha poll. The plea was ill-conceived and poorly put across. The court has fixed February 8, 2018, as the date for final hearing in appeals against a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court; the Lucknow Bench had suggested a three-way partition of the disputed land. It was rather sad that the minority community’s three lawyers, all senior and respected counsels — Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhawan and Dushyant Dave — felt it necessary to give the impression of walking out of the court when their plea for postponement was turned down.

Admitted, the court’s decision would have a political impact. It is rather late in the day for anyone to argue that the Modi government was using the judiciary to advance its Ram Mandir agenda. All governments — starting with the PV Narasima Rao regime — have sought to ensnare the judiciary in political games in this Ayodhya business; and, it can be easily assumed that almost every single high court and Supreme Court judge has had thoughts about the matter, all its legal ramifications and political consequences. The entire judicial fraternity is intellectually seized of the case and its imponderables. And, not just Ayodhya, the politicians have cynically dumped dicey issues in the judiciary’s lap; more often than not, the politicians want  to postpone the day of reckoning or take shelter behind the court’s authoritativeness. 

Still, it was ironic that the apex court got to fix the date of next hearing on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid; that demolition took place in defiance and contempt of the assurances and undertakings given to the highest judicial forum. The Chief Justice of India and his brother judges need not be reminded that the dispute is not just about a piece of real estate; just as they can be expected to be very consciously aware of their role as the guardians of the Constitution and its secular and democratic fabric. 

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