The Supreme Court will commence the final hearing in the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute from December 5, a day before the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the medieval-era structure. The apex court, after an intense deliberation for more than one-and-half-hours, reached a consensus on commencement of the hearing on a total of 13 appeals filed against the 2010 judgement of the Allahabad High Court in four civil suits. The high court had ruled a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acre area at Ayodhya among the parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Lord Ram Lalla. Another sect of the Muslims under the banner of Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh recently went to the court offering a solution that a mosque could be built in a Muslim- dominated area at a "reasonable distance" from the disputed site in Ayodhya. However, its intervention has been opposed by the All India Sunni Waqf Board which claimed that judicial adjudication between the two sects had already been done in 1946 by declaring the mosque, which was demolished on December 6, 1992, as that belonging to the Sunnis. A specially constituted bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, asked the contesting parties to complete the translation of the exhibits of the documents likely to be relied upon into English within 12 weeks since these were in eight different languages including Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, Pali and Arabic. The bench, also comprising justices Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer, asked the Uttar Pradesh government to complete within 10 weeks the translation of the evidence recorded for adjudication of the title dispute in the high court into English. The bench made it clear that the parties would have to strictly adhere to the time frame fixed by it and that no adjournment would be given under any circumstance. The top court said it would not allow the matter to take any shape other than the civil appeals and would adopt the same procedure as was done by the high court. It said it would strictly go by the Civil Procedure Code and the Evidence Act. Senior counsel C S Vaidyanathan, appearing for Lord Ram Lalla and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the UP government, pressed for early hearing of the matter, but senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Anoop George Chaudhari, Rajeev Dhavan and Sushil Jain, representing other parties including All India Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara, were not in favour of commencement of the hearing before January next year. Sibal even said that it was a serious matter and the hearing should not be started in haste. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, an intervenor in the matter, made an attempt to raise the issue of the fundamental right of religion of the Hindus under Article 25 of the Constitution. He said during the adjudication of the matter he would like to make out a case that the fundamental right should get precedence over the property right. However, the bench made it clear that it would first hear the main appellants and respondents in the case which involved the parties like -- Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Lord Ram Lalla. A major part of the deliberations revolved around the issue of completion of the pleadings as the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara took a tough stand that till the entire set of documents was translated, the hearing should not commence. Their stand was strongly opposed by the counsel for Lord Ram Lalla and the UP government which said that almost seven years have passed since the judgement of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court and the contesting parties should have completed the translation work earlier. However, the counsel for the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board submitted that the documents, including the judgement running into 9,000 pages, had come to them only an year ago and they would take at least four months to complete the translation work. They also opposed a suggestion of the bench and senior counsel representing Ram Lalla, the UP government and others that the parties relying on relevant documents themselves place the translation of the extracts of the exhibits, saying that all documents should be referred to official translators. The bench said the parties themselves would translate the required documents and in case of any dispute it would examine it at the relevant time. The apex court also allowed the substitute names of appellants and respondents in case those who were originally involved had died by their legal heirs or representatives and said that the same could be made known through public notice in leading dailies both in English and vernacular languages in the area concerned. While the bench was considering a framework completion the pleadings to commence the final hearing, Sibal stressed on following of the stipulated procedure by asking it not to circumvent the process. He went to the extent of saying that "the judges were donning the role of registrars". However, the bench said it was doing so as the parties have not allowed the registrar to complete the formalities. Many of the original plantiffs and defendants in the matter including Mohd Hashim, who was the first person to take the matter to the apex court, have died. A battery of senior advocates including Vikas Singh, Shyam Divan, UP Advocate General Raghvendra Singh, Huzefa Ahmadi appeared for appellants and intervenors in the matter. A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Hourt, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had said the land be partitioned equally among three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. On July 21, a bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, had said that it would soon take a decision to list the matter for early hearing. The court's remark had come on a plea of BJP leader Swamy who sought urgent hearing of the matter. Swamy had said the main appeals against the Allahabad High Court order were pending for the last seven years in the apex court and these required urgent hearing. He had also said that a separate petition was earlier filed by him seeking enforcement of his right to worship without "much hassle" at the site.
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