A newly constituted five-judge bench of the Supreme Court will hear the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute on February 26. The hearing was delayed because Justice SA Bobde, one of the judges on the constitution bench, had gone on leave.
The hearing comes amid calls for the speedy construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election. The apex court had constituted a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Abdul Nazeer, Justice Bobde and Justice DY Chandrachud to hear the case on January 25. Although the hearing was initially scheduled for January 29, it had to be postponed in view of Justice Bobde's absence.
In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had divided the disputed land into three parts for each of the parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. It was a decision that satisfied none of the stakeholders concerned, and appeals were soon filed before the Supreme Court.
The case has been pending before the top court for the last eight years, although there has been a rising demand for day-to-day hearings. Last year, the top court cited "other priorities" to refuse the case an urgent hearing, and posted the matter to the first week of January.
Earlier this month, a petition challenging the constitutional validity of a 1993 central law that enabled the acquisition of 67.703 acres of land -- including the disputed property in Ayodhya -- was filed in the Supreme Court. The plea contended that Parliament has no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to the state, and held that the law infringes upon the right to religion of Hindus guaranteed and protected under Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) of the Constitution.
While several right-wing organisations want the Narendra Modi government to bring an ordinance for constructing a Ram temple at the disputed site, BJP president Amit Shah regularly accuses the Congress of setting up obstacles to the temple's construction in the Supreme Court. "The BJP's stand has always been clear on the issue, and I want to declare today that the Ram Temple in Ayodhya should be built at the earliest. Will Rahul Gandhi also define his stand on the issue?" he said to loud cheers at a rally on February 2.
(With inputs from ANI)