SC reserves Ayodhya verdict after 40-day marathon hearing

Appeals had challenged the three-way partition of the disputed site
The Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, on Wednesday reserved its judgment, after a marathon 40-day hearing, on the cross-appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim sides challenging the three-way partition of the disputed 2.77 acres of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land among Ram Lalla, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board in September 2010. The high-octane hearings between the rival sides was not without drama on the final day. It had numerous lawyers vying for time to argue their points, and saw senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan tear up a document on his desk while the Chief Justice and the judges, who have constantly attempted to maintain peace among lawyers, even threatened to walk out if order and decorum was not restored.

The hearings began on August 6 after a mediation attempt across the religious divide “to heal hearts and minds” failed to deliver.

The 40-day hearing is a close second to the longest heard case in the Supreme Court — the historic Kesavananda Bharati case. The testimonies in the appeals alone run into 54 volumes consisting of 13,426 pages which have been translated into English and filed by the Uttar Pradesh government. There are a total 533 exhibits translated by various parties. The Allahabad High Court judge, Justice S.U. Khan, one of the three judges whose opinions in the case are under appeal, had described the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Ayodhya property as a “small piece of land where angels fear to tread.” The Centre, under the Ayodhya Act of 1993, is holding the acquired land, including the disputed site, as a non-partisan, statutory receiver. Chief Justice Gogoi has been decisive and pushed the lawyers incessantly to stick to the deadline. The Bench had sat through the weekdays since August 6 to finish the hearings. The initial deadline was October 18. With Chief Justice Gogoi set to retire on November 17, the Bench had said it would need at least a month to write the judgment. However, the hearings have been wrapped up two days before the October 18 mark.

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