Five-judge SC Bench to hear Ayodhya pleas

The Supreme Court on Tuesday notified that a five-judge Bench, consisting of the incumbent Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the next four future Chief Justices of India in line of seniority, will hear the Ayodhya title dispute appeals on January 10. The Bench, besides Chief Justice Gogoi, will have Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, U.U. Lalit and D.Y. Chandrachud. On January 10, this Bench will decide the future dates for hearing the please. On January 4, a two-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi had observed that an “appropriate Bench” would take up the appeals on January 10. The Ayodhya appeals were previously heard by a combination of three judges led by Chief Justice Gogoi’s immediate predecessor in office, JusticeDipak Misra, who retired onOctober 2, 2018.

Earlier judgment

The Bench led by Justice Misra had, in a majority judgment, on September 27 declined a plea made by Islamic bodies and individuals to refer the question as to whether prayer in a mosque is an essential part of Islam to a seven-judge Constitution Bench. The majority verdict, in its last paragraph, had further directed the apex court to start hearing the pending appeals from the week starting October 29.

This direction in the September judgment had also triggered questions on whether the court intended to deliver a judgment in the appeals before the May 2019 Lok Sabha election. In 2017, when the court started to hear the appeals after a hiatus of over seven years, senior advocate Kapil Sibal had suggested it adjourn the hearings to a date after the general elections.

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