The Supreme Court on Tuesday set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute case.
The bench would be headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprise of Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud.
The Constitution Bench is scheduled to hear the matter on January 10.
The case deals with the controversial issue of setting up a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya at a site believed to have been the birthplace of Lord Ram. The Babri Masjid stood on the disputed site and was controversially demolished in 1992 by ‘kar sevaks’. The demolition led to nationwide riots.
The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title case is about who owns the controversial land where Babri Masjid once stood and where Lord Ram is believed to have been born.
On Friday, the top court had deferred the Ayodhya case in just a 60-second hearing and said a bench would decide on January 10 when to take up the case.
The dispute is over 2.7 acres of land on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished on December 6, 1992.
In 2010, the Allahabad High Court accepted that the disputed site was the birthplace of Lord Ram and allotted two-thirds of it to the Hindus. The rest went to the Sunni Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh. Both Hindu and Muslim organisations appealed against it in the Supreme Court, which in 2011, stayed the High Court order.
In October, the Supreme Court rejected the Uttar Pradesh government’s appeal for an early hearing of the 14 petitions in the case. “We have our own priorities. Whether hearing would take place in January, March or April would be decided by an appropriate bench,” the court said.
The court’s refusal for an early hearing pushed right-wing groups and a section of the BJP to demand that the government bypass the legal process and expedite temple construction through an ordinance of the executive order.
Despite pressure from right-wing groups and the Shiv Sena, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his New Year interview that the government is waiting for a legal resolution. “Let the judicial process be over. After the judicial process is over, whatever be our responsibility as a government, we are ready to make all efforts,” PM Modi said. He also accused the Congress of delaying the legal process.
In September, the Supreme Court had declined to reconsider its observations in a 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam – an issue that came up during the hearing of the Ayodhya land dispute.
The 16th-Century Babri Majid was razed on December 6, 1992, by thousands of right-wing volunteers or Kar Sewaks, who claimed it was built on a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram that was destroyed. Around 2,000 people were killed in the riots that followed the demolition.