A five-judge Constitution Bench, to be headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was set up the Supreme Court on Tuesday, which will hear the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya. The bench will also comprise of Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud. The Constitution Bench is scheduled to hear the matter on Thursday.
The newly set up five-judge bench comprises not only the incumbent CJI but the four judges who are in line to be CJI in the future. Justice Gogoi's successor would be Justice Bobde followed by Justices Ramana, Lalit and Chandrachud.
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Earlier on September 27 last year, a three-judge bench of the top court had refused to refer to a five-judge constitution bench for reconsideration of the observations in its 1994 judgement that a mosque was not integral to Islam.
When the matter was last taken up on January 4, there was no indication that the land dispute case would be referred to a constitution bench, as the apex court had simply said that further orders in the matter would be passed on January 10 by "the appropriate bench, as may be constituted".
A notice on the apex court website on Tuesday read: "Take notice that the following matters (petitions in the Ayodhya land dispute) will be listed on Thursday the 10th January 2019 at 10.30 AM in Chief Justice's court before the constitution bench comprising the Chief Justice, Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Uday Umesh Lalit and Dr DY Chandrachud."
As many as 14 appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land be partitioned equally among the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The apex court on October 29 last year had fixed the matter in the first week of January before the "appropriate bench".
Later, an application was moved for according an urgent hearing by advancing the date, but the top court had refused the plea, saying it had already passed an order on October 29 relating to the hearing of the matter.
The plea for early hearing was moved by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) which is one of the respondents in the appeal filed by legal heirs of M Siddiq, one of the original litigants in the case.
Various Hindutva organisations have been demanding an ordinance on early construction of Ram temple at the disputed site.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested that any decision on an ordinance on Ram temple in Ayodhya can happen only after the completion of the judicial process.
Modi's comments had come amidst heightened demands by Hindutava organisations, including the RSS, for an ordinance for an early construction of the temple.
"Let the judicial process take its own course. Don't weigh it in political terms. Let the judicial process be over. After the judicial process is over, whatever be our responsibility as government, we are ready to make all efforts," the prime minister had said during an interview, broadcast by several TV channels.
(With PTI inputs)