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Ayodhya case: Decision on scheduling hearing put off to Jan 29 after judge recuses from Bench



Ayodhya temple

Hearing of the eagerly awaited, politically sensitive Ram JanmabhoomiBabri Masjid land title dispute in the Supreme Court was today (Thursday, Jan 10) put off till Jan 29 after Justice Uday U Lalit recused himself from the case for previously being a lawyer in a related case.

The court will now constitute a new bench for deciding the schedule of hearing the case on January 29.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi had set up a Constitution bench comprising himself and Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit, DY Chandrachud to decide the date when they will begin hearing the 14 appeals in the case.

However, Justice UU Lalit recused himself from the case after senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim side pointed out that he had once appeared as a lawyer for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in another case related to the land dispute in 1994. Though Dhavan said he was not seeking Justice Lalit’s recusal, the judge opted out of the hearing in the matter.

The constitution bench will now have to be reconstituted when the matter comes up for hearing next on January 29.

As soon as the bench assembled this morning to hear the Ayodhya matter, the CJI clarified that the case had been listed on the day not for arguments but only to decide the schedule for the commencement of the proceedings.

On Tuesday, in a surprise move, CJI Ranjan Gogoi had formed a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by him, to hear the case. Using his discretionary powers to list the matter before a Constitution Bench without a fresh reference being made in the case for such a request, the CJI had indicated that, although, his predecessor had declared that the case will be treated purely as a title dispute, the top court may now also be open to larger questions of constitutional relevance involved in the case.

When the matter was last taken up on January 4, there was no indication that the case would be referred to a Constitution bench as the apex court had simply said further orders in the matter would be passed on January 10 by “the appropriate bench, as may be constituted”.

Days before he demitted office, then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had, in September, while pronouncing a verdict in the Ismail Faruqui reference, said that the Ayodhya matter did not need to be heard by a bench of a larger composition than three judges. The verdict had also upheld a controversial observation in the Ismail Faruqui case of mid-1990s, which was linked with the main matter of the Ayodhya title suit, that stated “a mosque is not integral to Islam” and hence was not a perquisite for offering namaz.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Misra had then said that the hearing in the Ayodhya matter could resume from October 29 (by when Justice Gogoi would be elevated to the top post of the apex court). However, upon assuming office, Chief Justice Gogoi had earlier put off the hearing in the case till January this year, declaring that an “appropriate bench” would be constituted for adjudicating proceedings in the matter.

On Thursday, senior advocate Dhavan, appearing for the Muslim petitioners in the case, objected to the CJI’s decision of forming a Constitution Bench to hear the suit without any fresh reference being made for the purpose. However, the Bench, in unison, rejected Dhavan’s contention stating that the CJI had used his discretion and was permitted to do so as per the Supreme Court Rules.

The bench also overruled Dhavan’s claim that the Chief Justice had, in forming a Constitution Bench in the case, gone against an earlier verdict in the matter that said a three-judge bench was competent to adjudicate the pleas.

Dhavan also pointed out that the verdict in the title suit, delivered by the Allahabad High Court, runs into over 4300 pages and a large number of documents related to the case still need to be translated and circulated to all parties and their lawyers.

The bench then directed the Supreme Court registry to appoint official translators for the documents and also assess how much time it would take to complete the process of translations. The translations have to be made into English and Hindi from documents that are written in Arabic, Sanskrit and Gurmukhi, aside from some other vernacular languages.

The apex court said in its order that 113 issues are likely to be perused during the hearing. It also noted that 88 witnesses were examined and their statements recorded when the matter was before the Allahabad high court. It said the deposition of the witnesses runs into 2,886 pages and 257 documents were exhibited.

The apex court noted that the high court judgement itself is 4,304 pages; along with additional annexures it runs into 8,000 pages.

Fourteen appeals against the September 30, 2010 decision of the Allahabad High Court — which accepted that the disputed site was birthplace of Lord Ram and ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres, giving a third each to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman — have been pending since December of that year.

Right-wing organisations, including the RSS, have been demanding an early decision on the dispute. Demands seeking an ordinance for construction of a Ram temple have also gained momentum.

India News

Lucknow court shootout: Western UP gangster shot dead by man dressed as lawyer

Maheshwari himself was a dreaded shooter and was booked under several other criminal cases. He was also said to be a close aide of Munna Bajrangi, who was killed while serving time in Baghpat prison in 2018.  



Gangster Sanjeev Jeeva

Security in India’s courtrooms and court complexes were again exposed on Wednesday when gangster Sanjiv Maheshwari, also known as Sanjiv Jeeva, was shot dead by a man dressed as a lawyer right inside a Lucknow court.

Sanjeev Maheshwari had come to the SC/ST court for hearing in a murder case and was entering the courtroom when the shooter opened fire, injuring a young girl and a policeman.

Maheshwari, who led a criminal gang in Western UP, was said to be a close aide of gangster-politician Mukhtar Ansari. He was accused in the murder case of BJP MLA Brahmadatt Dwivedi. Ansari is currently serving life imprisonment. The shooter was nabbed by lawyers in court and police and has been identified as Vijay Yadav.

Maheshwari himself was a dreaded shooter and was booked under several other criminal cases. He was also said to be a close aide of Munna Bajrangi, who was killed while serving time in Baghpat prison in 2018.  

The police constable injured in the attack sustained a bullet wound in his right leg and his colleagues helped him out of the court complex. He is undergoing treatment in the Lucknow Civil Hospital. Meanwhile, heavy police deployment has been made in the Lucknow court as well as the city after the shootout.

Commented on the law and order situation in UP, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said the question is not who is being killed but the question is that one is being killed in the presence of high security.

In his reply to a journalist’s question on the incident, UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said the police will not spare anyone who is involved in the killing.

Lucknow DM Surya Pal Gangwar told the media that Maheshwari was shot dead, a girl of 8-10 years has also been injured. He added the shooter has been caught and the investigation into the incident has begun.

In Delhi, gangster Jitender Gogi was killed in a shootout in a Rohini court in 2021. The inter-gang rivalry ended with the knifing murder of Tillu Tajpuriya inside Tihar Jail in May this year.

The security of local courts has been a matter of concern for judges with former Chief Justice of India Justice NV Ramana raising it with the government.

A three-member SIT (Special Investigation Team) including Mohit Agarwal ADG Technical, Joint CP Nilabja Chaudhary, Ayodhya IG Praveen Kumar has been constituted to investigate the incident: UP CM Yogi Adityanath.

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India News

Wrestlers meet Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, put forth 5 demands, protest still on but suspended till June 15

On Wednesday morning, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur and the top wrestlers, led by Olympic Medallist Bajrang Punia, began a crucial meeting at Anurag Thakur’s residence.



Wrestlers Protest

With the Central government offering to complete the probe against Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh by June 15, Olympian Bajrang Punia told the media that the agitation by the wrestlers will be suspended till then.

On Wednesday, the wrestlers met Sports Minister Anurag Thakur at his residence after the minister had tweeted late last night that he looked forward for a discussion with the protesters.

Reports said the wrestlers represented by Sakshi Malik and Punia have made five demands in the meeting with Anurag Thakur. Their demands were: (1) Free and fair elections for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), (2) a woman to be made the WFI chief, (3) withdrawal of the Delhi Police case against the wrestlers registered on May 28, (4) the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and (5) preventing Brij Bhushan or his family or his acolytes from being part of WFI.

Punia, Sakshi Malik, and her husband Satyawart Kadiyan, who is also a wrestler, attended the meeting. Vinesh Phogat did not attend the meeting as she was to attend a pre-scheduled panchayat in her village Balali, Haryana. Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, who supports the protesting wrestlers, did not attend the meeting.

In the space of five days, this is the second meeting between the protesting wrestlers and the government. Wrestlers met Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday night and briefed him on their demands. Shah had asked them to trust the investigation process.

The wrestlers have been demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who they have accused of sexual harassment, since January this year. The wrestlers resumed their protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh on April 23 at Jantar Mantar. On May 28, they were removed from the protest site by police and detained for violation of law and order after they began a march to the new Parliament building without permission. The police action resulted in an iconic photograph of Sangeeta and Vinesh Phogat.

The rub in this melee is that while the government is willing to accept most of their demands, the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is also the BJP MP from Kaiserganj, and wields significant clout in that part of Uttar Pradesh, remains a tricky question.

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India News

Section 144 imposed in Kolhapur after clashes break out over socmed post with offensive audio message, Tipu Sultan photo  

The Law and order is the state affair and Maharashtra government takes the responsibility of it. He also appeals to the public for peace and calm. Police investigation is under way and action will be taken against those found guilty.



Kolhapur clash

Prohibitory orders have been issued in Kolhapur on Wednesday banning the assembly of five or more persons till June 19 after clashes broke out between two groups. Right-wing outfits objected to the use of Tipu Sultan’s image along with an objectionable audio message as a social media status put up by a few residents. Police had to lathicharge to disperse the crowd as the situation became tense.

Police have also applied for banning mobile internet from Wednesday till Thursday evening to prevent the issue from snowballing. On Tuesday, a group of right-wing activists held a protest demanding action against those who put the image of the 18th-century Mysore ruler along with an offensive message on their social media profiles. Police assured action and told them to return. Police also informed the protesters they had booked some people in connection with the post.

Kolhapur SP Mahendra Pandit said the protesters again hit the streets on Wednesday. Few organisations had called for a Kolhapur bandh and the members of these organisations gathered at Shivaji Chowk early today. After their demonstration ended, the crowd began to disperse but some miscreants started pelting stones, forcing police to use force against these people to disperse them. The SP also said they appealed to the agitators to maintain peace and withdraw the agitation.

Dipak Kesarkar, guardian minister and minister of education and Marathi language, said action has been taken against those who had used Tipu Sultan’s image along with an objectionable audio message with the detention of 21 people so far.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde appealed for calm and peace. He said law and order is a state responsibility and the Maharashtra government will act. Police investigation is under way and action will be taken against those found guilty. Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said this was part of a larger well-thought out plan by some people.

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