This Article is From Oct 31, 2018

Supreme Court Should Not Have Delayed Ayodhya Hearing

As widely expected, the Supreme Court of India, on October 29, has posted the hearing of the crucial Ram Janmabhoomi title suit to January for fixing of the final date of hearing in the same. Court reporters have reported that this was done in spite of a request made by the central government's counsel to post the matter for hearing after Deepavali. As things stand, the final hearing on merits is still pending although the preliminary issue has already been decided in favour of Hindu parties, including Ram Lalla Virajman, in as much as the court has opined that a reconsideration of the older Ismail Farooqui judgement is not required for a decision in this case. One is at a complete loss to understand as to why this matter is not an urgent one as far as the Honourable Supreme Court is concerned. Ours is the only Supreme Court in the world that selects its own without any assistance from other organs of the government viz. the legislature and the executive. This gives it unprecedented power. For quite a few members of the public, including this writer who happens to be a lawyer himself, it seems incomprehensible that a court that has all the time in the world to decide who gets to enter the Sabarimala temple or what kind of crackers we should burst has absolutely no time to decide Ram Janmabhoomi case, which apart from being one of great public importance, has also been pending before the top court for ten years now.

Our Supreme Court was an institution held in high esteem by the public since the 1990s when its principled intervention pursuant to Public Interest Litigations on a variety of issues not only enlightened us but also helped us take giant strides in fields like the protection of the environment, human rights in general and gender rights in particular. To my mind, the honourable court was served with a grim and sobering reminder on the limitations of its power when, despite its verdict on the Sabarimala Shrine, the Kerala government led by the Communist Party of India Marxist failed to ensure the entry of women into the temple.

As far as the government of the day is concerned, the way forward for it is clear. In the celebrated case of Chiranjit Lal v. Union of India, the apex court had opined that it is the inherent right of every sovereign state to appropriate private property in the territory governed by it for a public purpose. The litigants to this dispute are all private parties at any rate, so whichever way the verdict goes, the power of Eminent Domain can be exercised with respect to Ram Janmabhoomi. Armed with this verdict, there is no stopping the government from bringing in an ordinance or a legislation for the building of a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya at the site which is regarded by an overwhelming majority of the denizens of this country as the birthplace of Lord Shri Rama. If other elements of India's polity including but not limited to the Indian National Congress were to express a contrarian opinion on the floor of the House, let them be judged by the Indian public.

Furthermore, if the matter does go before the Honourable Supreme Court and if the venerable institution were to then feel that the building of a Ram Temple does not qualify as public purpose and is therefore not a fit case for the exercise of the power of Eminent Domain, let those who make this decision await trial in the Highest Judicial Forum - the Court of Public Conscience.

(Raghav Awasthi is a lawyer and RSS swayamsevak.)

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