Sunday, September 26, 2010

CJI replaces Justice Kumar with Justice Alam for Ayodhya case

NEW DELHI: CJI S H Kapadia heads the Bench in Court Number 1 of Supreme Court, also known as Chief Justice's Court, and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar sit with him almost regularly.

But, with the apex court due to hear the Ayodhya matter which can have repercussions for Hindu-Muslim equations, the CJI appears to have put into practice the oft-recited adage -- "justice should not only be done, but also appear to be done" -- and drafted in Justice Aftab Alam in place of Justice Kumar for the crucial hearing on Tuesday.

The petition of Ramesh Chandra Tripathi seeking deferment of the Ayodhya verdict had to be referred to the CJI to be put before a new three-judge Bench after a two-judge Bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and H L Gokhale differed on entertaining the appeal even as they, following a tradition, stopped the Allahabad High Court from delivering the verdict on Thursday.

Significantly, amid tenacious opposition by many -- from the BJP/VHP combine to the All India Shia Personal Law Board -- the number of parties to the title suits seeking a postponement of the verdict seems to be increasing in what can have a bearing on the hearing in the apex court on Tuesday.

Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, a defendant in one of the title suits, and Nirmohi Akhara, which is one of the original plaintiff, were just two out of 28 parties to the suits but they succeeded in convincing the SC on Thursday to give negotiations a chance for an amicable settlement.

Just two days after the interim order of the SC asking the HC to defer the scheduled judgment in the 61-year-old litigation, Tripathi's counsel Sunil Kumar Jain told TOI that his client has managed to convince five to six more parties who were now ready to sit down for negotiations.

It would be difficult to achieve any breathrough for comprehensive negotiations towards an amicable settlement unless the main parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board and Mahant Dharamdass -- agree for talks. But if Tripathi manages a sizable number to agree for negotiations prior to Tuesday, then it can have the potential to change the course of hearing.

Both the Waqf Board and the Mahant had passionately argued against deferring of the HC judgment saying the vexed issue defies any negotiated settlement. However, if Tripathi can manage a few more of the parties on the side of talks, then it can assume some seriousness and weight before the apex court.

But, if he fails to manage the numbers to raise hopes for an out-of-court settlement before the SC on September 28, then there is ample chance that the apex court would vacate its interim order paving the way for the three-judge Bench of the HC to pronounce its already readied judgment.

Without numbers on his side, Tripathi would find it difficult to convince the SC to defer the HC judgment any further as it is aware that Justice D V Sharma, one of the judges of the three-judge HC Bench, which had readied its judgment for scheduled pronouncement on September 24, is due to retire on October 1.

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