SC judge opts out of Ayodhya case, hearing put off till Jan 29

New Delhi, January 10: Justice UU Lalit, one of the five judges of the Supreme Court constitution bench hearing the Ayodhya case, offered to opt out after a lawyer pointed out that he had represented one of the parties nearly two decades ago. The Supreme Court will now hear the Ayodhya case on January 29. A new bench will be constituted before the next hearing.

The five judges were expected to work out a date and schedule for the hearings. But before it could do that, senior lawyer Rajeev Dhawan, who is representing one of the parties, pointed that Justice UU Lalit had appeared in a contempt case to the Ayodhya dispute. In this case, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh was sent to one-day jail. Dhawan said that though he did not have any objection, it was for Justice Lalit to take a call.

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Dhawan did regret bringing up this information to the court’s notice but Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi underlined there was no need to be sorry as he is simply asserting a fact. Justice Lalit said he had appeared for one of the contemnors and offered to opt out of the case.

Harish Salve, who was appearing for Ram Lalla, said he completely supported Rajeev Dhawan, recalling that the contempt arose for the breach of orders passed in a writ petition as the then Chief Minister had failed to maintain status quo at the site. “These are civil suits. I don’t think it should be a problem,” he said.

The Chief Justice said it is not a question of anyone having a problem. “The point is it was mentioned to us. So Justice Lalit is of the view that it won’t be correct for him to participate,” the CJI said.

The other issue that Dhawan pointed out was that the order was to place it before a three-judge bench. He said the Constitution bench was denied by the earlier bench. He said the CJI would have to pass a judicial order and not an administrative one to bring in a constitution bench to hear the case.

The Supreme Court rules permits a Chief Justice of India to nominate a bench keeping in mind the importance of the case at hand and therefore to set up a constitution bench for hearing this dispute is in no way contrary to the earlier three judge bench order that had declines to send the title suit to a larger Bench.

This was clarified by the bench after Dr Dhawan pointed out to the speculations over a new bench being nominated to hear the matter. Dhawan asserted an order on the judicial side is required to clear the speculations

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