January 10, 2019:
On Thursday, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case in the Supreme Court began on an extremely dramatic note with Justice UU Lalit, who was part of the five-member Constitution bench, recusing himself from hearing the matter.
Justice Lalit recused himself after one of the petitioners in the case brought up the fact that in 1994, UU Lalit was the lawyer for Kalyan Singh in a case related to contempt of court.
Kalyan Singh was the CM of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Masjid was controversially demolished in 1992.
Rajeev Dhawan, who brought up the matter of UU Lalit being a lawyer from Kalyan Singh, said that he had no objection to the judge hearing the Ayodhya case.
Dhawan told the Supreme Court, “I am bringing it to Your Lordships notice though we dont have objection to him hearing the matter. It is entirely upto Your Lordships.”
Following this, the five judges on the Constitution bench — included CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud — held an internal discussion.
On coming out of the discussion, CJI Gogoi said that Justice Lalit had expressed a desire to recuse from hearing the matter, as it would not seem appropriate for him to continue on the bench even though the merits of the Ayodhya case are unrelated to the contempt case in question.
The matter was then adjourned until January 29. CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that the bench would be reconstituted in order to fill Justice UU Lalit’s now vacant seat.
Justice UU Lalit recusing himself from the Ayodhya case, by the way, was just one of the controversies that broke out in the Supreme Court today.
Some of the advocates in the case told the Supreme Court that there was a dispute over the correctness of the translations of some case-related documents that are in Persian, Sanskrit and Arabic.
The Supreme Court then directed its registry to physically inspect the documents and assess how long it might take to get them ready for being presented in court.
The registry has been asked to submit a report on the matter on Jan 29, when a reconstituted five-judge Constitution bench will take up the Ayodhya case again.
On Jan 29, the Supreme Court will also likely do what it was supposed to do today — set a timeline for hearing the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute case.