Bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices SK Kaul, KM Joseph to consider Babri Ram Mandir case on Monday
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Bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices SK Kaul, KM Joseph to consider Babri Ram Mandir case on Monday

Murali Krishnan

A Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph will hear the appeal against the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid land dispute on October 29.

The matter is being listed for the first time after a 3-judge Bench gave a verdict on September 27 holding that the case need not be referred to a Constitution Bench.

A three-judge Bench comprising former CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer had heard at length, the issue concerning reference of the case to Constitution Bench. The question which was considered by that Bench was whether the 1994 judgment of the Supreme Court in Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India should be revisited.

In the Ismail Faruqui judgment, the Supreme Court had held that while offering prayer or worship is a religious practice, offering prayer at every location where such prayers can be offered would not be an essential or integral part of such religious practice, unless the place has a particular significance for that religion.

The test of comparative significance, as it came to be called, was strongly opposed by Senior Counsel Rajeev Dhavan. Appearing for Sunni Waqf Board, Dhavan had submitted that every place of worship of every religion is entitled to protection and comparative significance cannot be used to resolve inter-faith disputes.

In September 27, the Bench gave its verdict holding by a 2:1 majority that the matter need not be referred to a larger bench.

Justice Bhushan penned the majority judgment on behalf of himself and CJI Misra, while Justice Nazeer wrote a dissenting judgment.

The observations in the Ismail Faruqui judgment on mosques not being essential to religion is in the context of acquisition of the mosque and made with respect to the facts of that case, Justice Bhushan had held.

“The use of “particular significance” in Ismail Faruqui judgment is only in the context of immunity from acquisition.”

Justice Bhushan had further held that the Ismail Faruqui judgment will not impact the decisions in the current suits. Thus, the majority opinion had held that there was no need for the matter to be referred to a Constitution Bench.

However, Justice Nazeer had dissented, holding that the questionable observations in Ismail Faruqui have permeated the Allahabad High Court verdict. He was of the opinion that Ismail Faruqui needs to be brought in line with the Shirur Mutt case.

Subsequently, Justice Dipak Misra had retired and the matter is now listed for directions before a new Bench.

Read the timeline of the entire dispute here.

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