Supreme Court does well to steer clear of emotive appeals and list the land dispute for hearing in 2019
The highest court of the land has played strictly by the book and with a straight bat in listing the Ayodhya title suit appeal by Muslim parties against the Allahabad High Court verdict of 2010 granting two-third of the land on which a makeshift Ram Temple stands for consideration by an appropriate Bench in January 2019. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has made it clear that as an institution its priorities in terms of urgency, unless it is a matter of life or death or imminent eviction, are to clear the backlog of cases, monitor effectively the dispensation of justice down the line and ensure judicial appointments are not inordinately delayed. This is not a Court which will help bail out Governments or accord urgency to matters which any party regardless of political hue feels it should. The apex court has underlined that it has a mind of its own; and that, indeed, is as it should be. The implications of Monday’s order are clear. Hopes for an early Court decision — for early, read before the 2019 General Election — have faded. When the Ayodhya title suit is taken up in January by an appropriate Bench, the composition of which is not yet known, it will, then have to take a call on how quickly (or not) the matter needs to be heard. There are voluminous court documents to peruse for the judges, ditto reams of evidence dating back centuries, so it is highly unlikely that a decision will come before the April-May 2019 when the Lok Sabha poll is scheduled to be held. The Bench will, it should be iterated, be hearing the title suit, which is a land dispute, and not adjudicating any emotive appeals or arguments by either side.
So, where does this leave the ruling dispensation and its allied organisations who have been agitating for a Ram Temple for close to 30 years now, given the issue first found mention in the BJP manifesto at its Palampur national executive meet in 1989? Well, of the three possible solutions to the Ayodhya matter — a negotiated settlement, a Supreme Court order or a law/ordinance — only the last-mentioned is now a realistic possibility. But that is easier said than done. While the RSS, the VHP and some BJP leaders too have been ratcheting up the pressure for an ordinance, the legal advice to the Government would surely be against such a move on the obvious grounds that the matter is before the apex court and therefore subject to an appeal before the Supreme Court for an immediate stay if an ordinance, however cleverly it is worded, impacts the ownership of the land on which a proposed grand temple to Lord Ram would be constructed. By a process of elimination, therefore, it is only a law which will have to be enacted by the BJP — possibly in a joint sitting of Parliament given its lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha — to come good on its promise which, while it may also be subject to appeal, can only be challenged on grounds of Constitutionality because Parliament is supreme in its law-making powers. Interesting times ahead, for sure.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer