SC rejects plea for Constitution Bench on Ayodhya dispute

New Delhi: By a majority 2-1 judgement, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea for referring the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid issue to a larger Constitution Bench and referred the case to a three-judge bench to be set up that will begin hearing from October 29.

“No case has been made out to refer the case to a Constitution Bench,” said Justice Ashok Bhushan, reading the judgement on behalf of himself and Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who headed Thursday’s three-judge bench.

The bench was giving its verdict on petitions by some Muslims who had pleaded that the 2010 judgement of the Allahabad High Court splitting the title dispute into three parts be heard by a Constitution Bench as it involved reconsideration of a 1994 ruling by a five-judge bench of the apex court which had held that mosque was not an essential part of Islam to offer namaz.

The petitioners had contended that while deciding the title suit in 2010, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court had referred to the observations made in the 1994 judgement by the five-judge bench.

However, in a dissenting ruling, Justice Abdul Nazeer said the judgement in the 1994 Ismail Farooqi case needed reconsideration and the matter should be referred to a larger seven-judge bench.

The majority judgement on Thursday held that a newly constituted bench will commence hearing from October 29 on a batch of petitions filed by both the sides — Hindu and Muslim stakeholders — challenging the 2010 judgement trifurcating the disputed site into three parts for Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and the original Muslim litigant.

“Observations in Ismail Farooqi case on mosques not being essential to religion was in the context of acquisition of mosque and made with respect to facts of that case. The observation made in Ismail Farooqi case has to be treated as only observation and not as the deciding factor of suit,” Justice Bhushan observed.

In his minority judgement, Justice Nazeer said “questionable” observations in the Ismail Farooqi ruling were arrived at without undertaking a comprehensive examination and they had permeated the judgement in the main Ayodhya title suit.

He said a Constitution Bench must decide what constitutes essential practices of a religion and thereafter the Ayodhya land dispute should be heard.

Justice Nazeer also said that whether mosque was an essential part of Islam for offering namaz was to be decided considering the religious beliefs and requires detailed consideration.

He also said that the question of the 1994 Ismail Farooqi judgement needed to be referred to a seven-judge bench.