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SC Stays HC Verdict In Ayodhya Title Suit For One Week

New Delhi, Sep 23 :The Supreme Court on Thursday  stayed for a week the Ayodhya title suit verdict that was due to be pronounced  by Allahabad High Court tomorrow and will hear the plea for
PTI September 23, 2010 21:42 IST
New Delhi, Sep 23 :The Supreme Court on Thursday  stayed for a week the Ayodhya title suit verdict that was due to be pronounced  by Allahabad High Court tomorrow and will hear the plea for deferment of the judgement next Tuesday. 

The Court issued notices to the contesting parties on the petition filed by retired bureacrat Ramesh Chand Tripathi challenging the order of the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court order refusing to defer the verdict in the 60-year-old Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit dispute. It posted the matter for further hearing on September 28.

A Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhale stayed the verdict for a week following conflicting views over the issue ofentertaining the petition challenging the High Court order. 

Justice Raveendran was of the view that the special leave petition filed by Tripathi should be dismissed while Justice Gokhale, on the other hand, was of the opinion that a notice should be issued for exploring the option of settlement. However, Justice Raveendran, who was heading the Bench, preferred to go by the opinion of Justice Gokhale. 

In the order, Justice Raveendran said, "When one of the Judges has a difference of opinion then the tradition is to issue notice."Notice was also sent to the Attorney General by the Supreme Court. A bench of the apex court comprising Justices Altmas Kabir and A K Patnaik had yesterday declined to hear urgently the plea to postpone the Ayodhya title suit verdict. 

While refusing to hear the petition filed by retired bureaucrat Tripathi, the bench had said that it did not have the "determination" to take up the issue and added that it will be listed before another Bench. Mukul Rohatgi, senior counsel appearing for Tripathi, said the Supreme Court may give a healing touch by attempting a last-ditch effort at mediation.

He said it was possible that in the face of Supreme Court notices the rival parties may sit across to find an amicable solution. 

Rohatgi said that next Tuesday his side would try to tell the court that the matter of judgement should be deferred so that religious, political and national leaders could try and work out a solution. He also said it was not a matter of just 10 or 20 parties in the case but related to lakhs and crores of people and the mediation could result in some way out.

Tripathi had yesterday moved the apex court five days after the High Court's Lucknow bench rejected his petition for deferring the verdict and to allow mediation to find a solution to the contentious dispute. 

The Allahabad High Court had also imposed "exemplary costs" of Rs 50,000, terming Tripathi's effort for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute as a "mischievous attempt". The petition filed by Tripathi sought some time to allow mediation among the parties and also challenged the costs. 

Tripathi, in his plea before the apex court, claimed that the verdict might disturb communal harmony and lead to violence in the country. 

In the petition filed through advocate Sunil Jain, he cited several reasons for deferment of the verdict, which he said would be in "public interest" in view of the apprehension of communal flare up, upcoming Commonwealth Games, elections in Bihar and violence in Kashmir Valley and Naxal-hit states. 

The petition had feared that there would be inadequate security personnel in Uttar Pradesh to provide security. Tripathi had also referred to an earlier order of the Court on July 27 last that parties concerned are at liberty to approach the Officer on Special Duty for formation of the bench if there was any possibility of disposal of the dispute or arrival at an understanding through consensus. 

One of the three judges in the Lucknow bench, however, disagreed with the majority order of September 17 rejecting the plea for deferring the Ayodhya verdict to allow mediation and gave a dissenting opinion that an amicable settlement could have been explored in the protracted legal wrangle. 

Justice Dharam Veer Sharma, while not concurring with the view of the other two judges--Justice S U Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal--also said in his dissenting judgement that he wasn't consulted when the three-judge bench gave the order while dismissing the plea for mediation.  

Zafaryab Jilani, senior lawyer for Babri Masjid Action Committee,  on Thursday ruled out any out-of-court settlement on the Ayodhya title dispute. Jilani said, “what was not possible for the last 19 years can not be possible within nine days. The ground reality is that any settlement out of the court is not possible.”

Jilani said, both the sides in the title suit wanted a judgement. Once judgement is passed, the parties will know where they stand, he said. The Supreme Court, he said, has expressed the “pious hope” about a settlement, but what is not possible cannot be made possible.

BJP on Thursday avoided a comment on the Supreme Court order  saying it will react when the judgement is pronounced in Lucknow.  "We will wait for the High Court verdict to come and then react to it," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said here.

Mahant Bhaskar Das of Nirmohi Akhara, one of the main parties to the title suit, told PTI that the concerned parties who had kept patience for past 60 years can wait for another week, however, Tirlok Nath Pandey representing Ram Lala Virajman in the dispute accused the government. 

"We had also favoured a settlement through reconciliation for which we had filed an affidavit in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court last week but that was not possible so now we want a judgement on the vexed issue by court, in near future," Mahant Bhaskar Das said. 

"As of now , no party has come forward for talks to resolve the issue through reconciliation... we want that the judgement whether it is in our favour or against is given at the earliest after which the option of approaching the Supreme Court is always open," he said. Pandey appeared unhappy over the deferment saying, "It appears to be a government tactic which does not want a verdict in the case." 

90-year old Hashim Ansari, another litigant, who wants the verdict on the vexed issue in his lifetime said he has put his entire life and resources into this case. 

"Some political people who feel that their politics would become redundant following the solution to this case have conspired for deferment. The people want a decision by court," he said. Zafaryab Jilani of Sunni Central Waqf Board said a reply would be sent as desired by the apex court. 

"There is no scope of any amicable settlement through reconciliation as all the parties, even the RSS and VHP want a decision through court," Jilani added. 

In Lucknow, former BJP leader and chief minister of the state when the Babri mosque was demolished in 1992, Kalyan Singh apprehended that the deferment could again cause inordinate delay in the resolution of the decades long case. 

If the verdict is not pronounced by September 29, it would again take years as one of the judges in the three judge bench is retiring this month and a fresh bench would have to be constituted and the proceedings would be started afresh, Singh said. 

Singh said Muslims should be asked by the political leadership to cooperate in constructing temple or else the Central government can bring a bill in the Parliament for enacting a law to pave way for a Ram temple.

Lawyers representing parties to the Ayodhya title suit case today did not see any hope of reconciliation in the 60-year-old dispute and are rooting for the verdict to be given quickly by the Allahabad High Court.

The response by the lawyers came after Justice H L Gokhale, who was in the Supreme Court Bench that deferred the verdict by one week, nudged rival sides to give settlement a chance. "If there is one per cent chance, you have to give it (for settlement)," Justice Gokhale said.

But the lawyers were unimpressed with one of them slamming as a "sleeping defendant" petitioner Ramesh Chand Tripathi, a retired bureaucrat, on whose plea one week interim stay was granted by the Apex court.

The main contestants to the dispute--Sunni Central Waqf Board, Ram Janmbhoomi Trust--and others felt that the interim stay has come in the way of judicial pronouncement whcih ws actually due tomorrow. The Waqf Board was of the view that there is no chance of reconciliation while the Trust was upset with the apex court's order.

Fingers were also pointed at Tripathi with the lawyers saying he was a non-serious party in the case. However, upbeat with the interim order, Prashant Chandra, the counsel representing Tripathi in the High Court, said the decision would help in mediation and settlement of the dispute.

Differing with Tripathi, counsel for Sunni Central Waqf Board Zafaryab Gilani, said, "I don't think that there is any chance of reconciliation. We have been trying it for 19 years. Three Prime Minister have been trying it.

Something which was not done in 19 years is not possible in nine days. Specially when the other side is also saying that there is no question of settlement."

Lawyer of Ramjanmbhoomi Trust Ranjana Agnihotri said she was personally "hurt" with the Supreme Court's order.

"All lawyers involved in the dispute have worked with full dedication for the decision. All parties are now interested to hear the judgement. The general populace is now feeling dejected with the Supreme Court's order," she said.

Gilani doubted the intention of Central government and credibility of the petitioner in the entire matter.

"I doubt the bona fide of the central government. How far it is interested in pronouncement of verdict it is to be probed," he said.

Gilani termed Tripathi as "insignificant" person, saying "who is behind him is to be probed." "I don't find any possibility of reconciliation in seven days. Let's hope judgement is pronounced and the Supreme Court vacates the stay order," he said.

Convenor, Committee on Babri Masjid S Q R Illyas said that no plan or scheme has been put before the court as far as negotiation or settlement is concerned. Illyas said no party was interested in any sort of out of court settlement.

"No scheme has been put before the Supreme Court as to what the parties want, who want to negotiate... Nothing is there in the pipeline. I do not find any party that is saying that it will not abide by the judgement of the court," Illyas said.

The Counsel representing 'Lord Rama' deity Ajay Pandey termed Tripathi as "sleeping defendant" and said he would not be able to find settlement through negotiation even in one year.

"Nowhere he stated (in petition) who are interested in negotiation. What to talk of a week, he cannot find solution in one year," he said, alleging that the petitioner was lying before the apex Court and others. PTI    

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