The Hindu – Tibetan leader cautions India against China’s ‘Doklam plans’

Special Correspondent

New Delhi-India, 18 January 2018. India should be worried about China’s continued military build up in Doklam, said Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration in India.

Dr Sangay made his observations on the Doklam issue while announcing the upcoming events to mark the 60th anniversary of the arrival of the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in India.

“India has to be cautious about China’s plans in Doklam. China has traditionally maintained that Tibet is the palm and the five fingers are Bhutan, Nepal, Arunachal [Pradesh], Ladakh and Sikkim. Therefore its actions in the Doklam region should be taken seriously,” Dr Sangay said.

Dr Sangay announced that the Tibetan community in India will hold a major inter-religious event in New Delhi to commemorate March 31, 1959 arrival of the Dalai Lama in India. “We expect a representative of the Indian government to attend the event,” he said.

The Tibetan leader pointed out that Bhutan should also express concern about the Doklam situation. “Going to the UN is definitely one of the options for Bhutan,” he said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tibetan-leader-cautions-india-against-chinas-doklam-plans/article22466290.ece

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The Hindu – Attack on couples by ‘Khap Panchayats’ illegal, says Supreme Court

New Delhi-India, 16 January 2018. The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed as “absolutely illegal” any attack by ‘Khap Panchayats’ or associations against an adult man and woman opting for inter-caste marriage.

A Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D y Chandrachud asked the Centre to give its reponse on suggestions earlier given by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran on ways to prevent harassment and killing of young couples in the name of family honour for marrying inter-caste or intra-clan (gotra).

“Whatever the amicus curiae says about khap, we are not concerned with that. What we are concerned is that if an adult girl or boy gets into marriage, no khap, no individual or no society can question them,” the Bench said.

The Bench told the Centre that would contemplate passing an order based on the amicus’ suggestion.

“Whenever there is any kind of collective attack on a boy or girl who are adult, it is absolutely illegal,” the Bench said and listed the matter for February 5 for further hearing.

The court had earlier sought suggestions from an NGO ‘Shakti Vahini’, amicus curiae on the issue.

Khaps are caste or community organisations in villages which at times act as quasi-judicial bodies and pronounce harsh punishments based on regressive and age-old customs and traditions.

The NGO had moved the top court in 2010 seeking directions to the central and State governments to prevent and control ‘honour’ crimes by taking a number of measures.

Earlier, the apex court had invited ‘Khap Panchayats’ to hear their views before issuing any order to stop them from harassing and killing couples and women in the name of honour.

The Centre had pleaded with the apex court to put in place a mechanism to monitor crimes against women by ‘Khap Panchayats’, as the police was not able to protect women facing ordeal at their hands.

The top court had also said that as a pilot project, it would examine the situation in three districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where ‘Khap Panchayats’ were active.

It had summoned the Superintendents of Police of Rohtak and Jind districts of Haryana and that of Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh to apprise the court of the situation there.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/attack-on-couples-by-khap-panchayats-illegal-says-sc/article22449103.ece

The Asian Age – Day after SC judges questioned CJI’s conduct, Bar Association to meet today

Four Supreme Court senior judges on Friday questioned ‘unilateral and biased’ decisions of the CJI in allocation of ‘important’ cases to junior judges.

New Delhi-India, 13 January 2018. A day after four senior sitting judges of Supreme Court went public, questioning the conduct of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, the Bar Association has decided to hold a meeting on Saturday evening.

Senior advocate Supreme Court Bar Association President Vikas Singh said, “If they had to come for a PC (press conference) then they should have said something substantial. Just creating doubts in the minds of people will not serve the interest of the judiciary. This was not properly planned. They didn’t say anything about justice Loya”.

In an unprecedented move in the annals of judiciary, four senior most judges of the Supreme Court on Friday questioned the “unilateral and biased” decisions of the CJI in allocation of “important” cases to junior judges.

In a joint press conference, Justice J Chelameswar (number 2 in seniority), (Justices Ranjan Gogoi (number 3) Madan B Lokur (number 4) and Kurian Joseph (number 5), who felt that they were being sidelined, alleged that the situation in the Supreme Court was not in order and said many “less than desirable” things have taken place in the last few months.

The conference was held at the residence of Justice Chelameswar, who led the briefing.

In an apparent warning, the judges said lack of impartiality in allocation of high profile cases and constitution of benches with junior judges could imperil India’s democracy.

They said though they wrote a seven-page letter to the CJI two months ago (on allocation of work), the allocation of two petitions on Friday seeking a probe into the death of former CBI sessions judge B H Loya who discharged BJP president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, to a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra (number 10 in the rank) triggered the controversy.

Justice Chelameswar said, “this is an extraordinary event for the history of any nation, more particularly this nation, an extraordinary event in the history of this institution of judiciary. It is with no pleasure we are compelled to take this call for a press conference but sometimes the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable which have happened in the last few months”.

He said, “We tried to collectively persuade the Chief Justice that certain things are not in order and therefore remedial measures need to be taken, unfortunately our efforts failed.”

Asked whether allocation of petitions in Loya’s case was the flash point, they said, “we all met the CJI in his chambers this morning with a specific request, which unfortunately could not convince him that we were right; therefore, we were left with no choice to but to communicate it to the nation.”

They said, “All four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country or any country. For a survival of a democracy it is said that a hallmark of a good democracy is an independent and impartial judge.”

To a specific question “what are the remedies now? Do you want the Chief Justice of India to be impeached?” Justice Chelameswar said, “We are not saying anything now. Let the nation decide, we are nobodies to decide.”

On his part Justice Gogoi said, “Whatever Justice Chelameswar has told you is the whole of it, it is the discharge of a debt to the nation that has brought us here and we think that we have discharged the debt to the nation. More is in the letter, beyond this I don’t think there is any other issue we need to address.”

Justice Gogoi said, “I don’t want another 20 years later wise men in this country blame that Chelamesawar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph sold their souls, they didn’t take care of this institute. So we place it before the people of this country. We don’t want to say anything more. The letter speaks for itself.”

http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/130118/day-after-sc-judges-questioned-cjis-conduct-bar-association-to-meet-today.html

The Hindu – Supreme Court judges press conference: Legal fraternity says it’s unprecedented, shocking

Some legal luminaries also said the turn of events had raised a question mark about the credibility of the judicial system

New Delhi-India, 12 January 2018. The decision of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court to hold a press conference was on Friday termed as “unprecedented” by the legal fraternity, with some experts terming it as “shocking” while some others saying there could have been some compelling reasons for such a move.

Some legal luminaries also said the turn of events had raised a question mark about the credibility of the judicial system.

Senior advocates K T S Tulsi, former union law ministers Salman Khurshid and Ashwini Kumar, former judges Justice R S Sodhi and Justice Mukul Mudgal expressed concern over the unprecedented press conference, while senior advocate Indira Jaising welcomed the move and congratulated the four judges.

The BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said when such judges come out to do a press conference, it is necessary to take them seriously rather than finding fault.

Mr Swamy said the Prime Minister should take an initiative and contact the Chief Justice and the four judges to resolve the whole situation through the process of consultation.

However, Justice Sodhi questioned the move of the top judges approaching the media and asked how they can administer the Supreme Court through press conferences.

“I am so pained at the outcome of the things… It is appalling. How can you administer Supreme Court by press conference. Are you going to hold a referendum and ask people what is right and wrong,” Justice Sodhi said.

Justice Mudgal said the four senior-most judges were bringing the issues to light which according to them was necessary to be brought to the public notice.

He said they must have had compelling reasons to go public and “they are not publicity hungry judges and do not crave for unnecessary publicity”.

Terming the presser as “a welcome step”, senior lawyer Indira Jaising congratulated the four judges for the “bold move” and said: “As they said they are discharging a debt to history, namely to let the nation know that something is going wrong and needs to be corrected.”

She said the intention of the press meet was “to build a consensus to owe a debt of duty to the institution as a whole and ensure that this institution survives for you and me.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan also termed the event as unprecedented and said the judges took extreme decision to hold press conference under compelling circumstances.

“These four judges are very responsible. If they are doing this, the situation would have definitely gone out of control. They said the CJI was misusing his administrative powers to allot all cases,” Advocate Bhushan said.

Senior lawyer K T S Tulsi said the step was quite shocking and one had never thought that “things would come such far compelling the four senior-most judges to adopt this course of action.”

“I am sure they (four judges) have exhausted all other remedies. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking. The whole matter is with respect to judicial propriety. The question is of natural justice. Whatever is the law for common man, it is applied much more rigorously as far as judges are concerned because they must always be above suspicion,” Lawyer Tulsi said.

Similarly, former union minister and senior advocate Khurshid said there were some deep differences among the judges about how the apex court should function, terming it as a matter of anguish.

“I can only hope that conversation among the judges will not snap and will continue and that with accommodation and logic it will be settled. It has come too far,” Mr Khurshid said.

Former Law Minister Ashwini Kumar said it was “a sad day for Indian democracy.”

“This press conference is a strike at the root of the institutional integrity of the higher judiciary. It has raised question marks about the credibility of the system as such and has directly cast aspersions at the head of the Indian judiciary.

“I think the people of this country who have had highest regard to the highest judiciary will now be forced to think aloud as to whether we have gone gravely wrong somewhere,” he said.

Accompanied by three senior judges Justices Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, Justice J Chelameswar himself said “this is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation, more particularly this nation and an extraordinary event in the institution of judiciary … It is with no pleasure that we are compelled to call this press conference.

“But sometimes administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-judges-press-conference-legal-fraternity-says-its-unprecedented-shocking/article22429811.ece

The Hindu – Supreme Court to form its own special team to probe 186 anti-Sikh riots cases

These cases were not investigated further by the Union government’s SIT

Krishnadas Rajagopal

New Delhi-India, 10 January 2018. In a relief to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims, the Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to set up its own three-member special investigation team (SIT) to probe 186 cases not investigated further by the Union government’s SIT.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said the three-member SIT would be headed by a former High Court judge and have a former IPS officer not below or who is equivalent to the rank of an IG and a serving IPS officer, all available in Delhi.

On the government’s insistence, the Bench posted the matter for January 11, so that the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, and senior advocate H S Phoolka, who is appearing for the victims, could suggest names for the new special probe team.

“Regard being had to the nature of the cases, we think it appropriate that a fresh SIT be constituted for carrying on further investigation,” the court recorded in its order.

When the victims recalled that such an SIT had been quashed following objections that said investigation was the police’s forte and not the court’s, Chief Justice Misra said: “That is history. This is we [Supreme Court] who are doing it.”

The decision to form a new SIT was based on a confidential report placed on record on December 11, 2017 by an apex court-appointed supervisory committee of former Supreme Court judges, Justices K S Radhakrishnan and J M Panchal.

This committee was tasked with vetting the investigation into 241 anti-Sikh riots cases closed by the government’s SIT. These 186 cases are a part of those cases.

On August 16 last year, the court decided to independently examine the investigation records of the 241 cases and confirm that there was nothing more to do on them.

Death of 3,325 people

A total of 3,325 people were killed in the 1984 riots. Delhi alone accounted for 2,733 deaths, while the rest occurred in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other States.

The government SIT was set up on February 12, 2015, following a recommendation by the Justice (retd.) G P Mathur committee. It was headed by Pramod Asthana, an IPS officer of 1986 batch and comprised retired district and sessions judge Rakesh Kapoor and additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police Kumar Gyanesh.

The SIT questioned Congress leader Sajjan Kumar thrice and asked him questions about the allegations that he instigated a mob in Janakpuri on November 1, 1984, which led to the killing of two Sikhs, Sohan Singh and his son-in-law, Avtar Singh.

The Centre had told the court that out of a total 293 cases investigated by the SIT, closure reports were filed for 241 cases.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-to-form-new-sit-to-probe-186-anti-skih-riots-cases/article22411073.ece?homepage=true

The Statesman – Why atrocities on Dalits, minorities, farmers: Jignesh Mevani asks PM Modi

New Delhi-India, 10 January 2018. Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani on Tuesday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking why atrocities were being committed against Dalits, minorities and farmers in India and charged the BJP and RSS with instigating anti-Dalit violence in Bhima Koregaon in Maharasthra.

“The way in which Hardik (Patel), Alpesh (Thakore) and Jignesh (Mevani) with the support of the youth in Gujarat brought the BJP down from over 150 seats (target set by BJP in Gujarat) to 99 seats… That is the reason we are being targetted,” Mevani told his Yuva Hunkar rally here.

“And this is the reason why the people of the (Rashtriya Swayamsewak) Sangh and BJP spread violence in Bhima Koregaon,” he said, referring to the violence that broke out in Bhima Koregaon near Pune last week in which one person lost his life and several vehicles were damaged.

The rally for which the Delhi Police had originally denied permission was held at Jantar Mantar, a short distance from Parliament House in central Delhi. But Mevani and his supporters shelved plans to take out a procession to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The newly elected MLA also said that when he fought elections in Gujarat he always spoke about bringing people together.

“Throughout the election campaign, we said that for 22 years the BJP followed the politics of division, while we always spoke about binding people together,” he said. “We don’t follow love-jihad”.

“We only talk about love and harmony. We will celebrate April 14 and Valentine’s Day too,” he said.

Referring to the violence that marked the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon battle in Pune last week, he asked: “Why the violence took place in Bhima Koregaon?

“I don’t have to answer it but you have to answer me… This you have to answer why Rs 15 lakh didn’t come in everyone’s account, why no jobs to youth? Why farmers were shot dead in Mandsaur? Why no justice to the Una Dalit victims? Why Najeeb Ahmed went missing? Why Rohit Vemula died? We’ll ask all these questions from you, (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji.”

Mevani, who won from Vadgam in Gujarat in Assembly elections, said elected representatives were not allowed to speak and that was Gujarat’s model.

Further targeting Modi, Mevani said he supported the government’s “Digital India” initiative but asked the Prime Minister to ensure a technology first “so that no one is made to die inside a sewer”.

He also sought an immediate release of Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad — a Dalit leader who has been jailed and the National Security Act (NSA) slapped against him for allegdly instigating violence in Saharanpur in June last year.

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar said the rally had been called “to protect the Constitution and not for any religion”. He alleged that the BJP was creating communal divisions to rule.

“The BJP does not want ‘Ram Rajya’… In the fight between Allah and Ram, the victory will always go to Nathuram (Godse),” said the student leader.

Earlier, scores of people gathered around the barricaded Parliament Street for the protest march planned by Mevani.

“No permission has been given to anyone (to hold a rally),” Joint Commissioner of Police Ajay Chaudhary told reporters here.

The Gujarat lawmaker slammed the police and the central government for denying permission to the protest.

“An elected representative is not allowed to speak… This is extremely unfortunate.”

Some 1,500 security personnel in riot gear, with tear gas launchers and water cannons, were deployed on Parliament Street. As many as 42 organisation, parties, associations and student groups, took part in the rally.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/atrocities-dalits-minorities-farmers-jignesh-mevani-asks-pm-modi-1502561121.html

The Times of India – ‘Kulbhushan Jadhav to get consular access’, says Pakistani media

New Delhi-India, 25 December 2017. In what he acknowledged is a “concession”, Pakistan’s foreign minister said yesterday that Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who’s on death row for alleged espionage, will get Indian consular access, reported Pakistani media.

Jadhav’s family members will be at the meeting with high commission official and that cannot be called “consular access”.

Asif meanwhile said in his interview that the reason Jadhav is getting such access is that Pakistan didn’t want India to create an impression that Jadhav was being denied access to his family, especially since his case is being heard at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“We didn’t want any weakness in our case in the ICJ over the meeting…We have allowed access to Jadhav’s family purely on a humanitarian basis. However, if we were in the same place, India wouldn’t have been so kind to us,” said Asif.

Earlier, a spokesman from Pakistan’s foreign office said India’s deputy high commissioner in Islamabad, J P Singh, will accompany Jadhav’s wife and mother at their meeting with the Indian national who was arrested last year by Pakistan for ‘espionage’.

The spokesman added that the meeting will take place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its photo and video footage would be issued.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kulbhushan-jadhav-to-get-consular-access-says-pakistani-media/articleshow/62238055.cms

The Tribune – New book says government orchestrated ’84 anti-Sikh riots

New Delhi-India, 12 December 2017. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that claimed the lives of an estimated 8,000 people in Delhi and around the country were not spontaneous as has been made out but were government-orchestrated, says a scathing new book on the four days of mayhem, adding it’s time the world took note of the killings, as it did of the slaughter of a similar number of Bosnian Muslims in 1994.

The book titled “1984 — India’s Guilty Secret”, written by Pav Singh, was released recently.

“At the time, the authorities projected the violence as a spontaneous reaction to the tragic loss of a much-loved Prime Minister.

But evidence points to a government-orchestrated genocidal massacre unleashed by politicians, with the trail leading up to the very heart of the dynastic Gandhi family, and covered up with the help of the police, judiciary and sections of the media,” the author claims.

“It is believed that key players in the then Congress government used the increasingly volatile situation in Punjab to blur the perception of the Sikh community in the eyes of their fellow citizens,” writes Pav Singh, a member of the Magazines and Books Industrial Council of Britain’s National Union of Journalists.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/new-book-says-govt-orchestrated-84-anti-sikh-riots/512356.html

The Hindu – Adultery law weighted in favour of men: Supreme Court

Section 497 of the IPC treats only the man as the offender and the married woman as a victim

Krishnadas Rajagopal

New Delhi-India, 9 December 2017. The Supreme Court on Friday said the dusty Victorian provision of adultery in the Indian Penal Code treats a married woman as her husband’s “subordinate”.

The court admitted a petition to drop adultery as a criminal offence from the statute book.

“Time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every respect,” the Supreme Court recorded in its five-page written order.

Section 497 of the IPC mandates that “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery and shall be punished”.

Issuing notice, the court would examine two aspects of the penal provision. One, why does Section 497 treat the man as the adulterer and the married woman as a victim.

Two, the offence of adultery ceases the moment it is established that the husband connived or consented to the adulterous act. So, is a married woman the “property” of her husband or a passive object without a mind of her own?

“The provision (Section 497) really creates a dent in the individual independent identity of a woman when the emphasis is laid on the connivance or consent of the husband. This tantamounts to subordination of a woman where the Constitution confers (women) equal status”, the Supreme Court declared.

Further, only a husband or the person in whose care the husband has left his wife can file a complaint under Section 497. The petition challenges the validity of Section 198 (1) and (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure which deems that only a husband can be an aggrieved party in offences against marriage like adultery and only he can go to court.

Arguing for petitioner Joseph Shine, advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and Suvidutt M.S., submitted that the penal section was framed at a time when women were considered a man’s property. They have asked the court to annul Section 497 as unconstitutional.

Equal status

The Constitution confers equal status to a man and a woman. The time has come when society has to realise that a woman is equal to her husband in every respect, Chief Justice Dipak Misra recorded in the order.

Justice D Y Chandrachud paraphrased the petitioner’s arguments that it amounts to a violation of a women’s fundamental right against discrimination under Article 15 when law “assumes a patronising attitude to women”. “By presuming the woman to be a victim, has the law made a patronising assumption” he asked.

Why is prosecution under Section 497 completely dependent on the husband’s word. So much so that, a woman can enter into an adulterous relationship if her husband consents. The debate in the court centered on the question whether Section 497 demeans a woman to the extent of her being considered the husband’s “commodity”.

“Does this relegate her to the level of a commodity?” Justice Chandrachud asked.

Terming the provision “quite archaic,” the court observed in the order that when society progresses, rights are conformed and a new generation of thoughts should spring forth.

The apex court had earlier on three separate occasions, in 1954, 1985 and 1988, upheld the constitutionality of Section 497.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-agrees-to-examine-adultery-provision-in-ipc/article21296775.ece

The Hindu – Ayodhya title dispute: SC refuses plea to defer hearing till after 2019 elections

Bench fixes the date for final hearing on February 8, 2018. The appeals are against a September 2010 judgment for a three-way partition of the disputed site in Ayodhya.

Krishnadas Rajagopal

New Delhi-India, 5 December 2017. The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused requests by appellant parties belonging to the minority community to defer the hearing in the Ramjanmabhoomi–Babri Masjid land dispute till after 15 July 2019, that is, post the next general elections.

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid by kar sevaks, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra remained undeterred by submissions that a Supreme Court verdict in the Ayodhya title dispute hearing right now would invite serious repercussions across the country.

The Bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, fixed the date for final hearing on 8 February 2018.

“Serious ramifications”

The court did not entertain, for now, a plea to refer the 13 appeals, including one filed by the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, to a five-judge Constitution Bench. The appeals are against a September 2010 judgment delivered by a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court for a three-way partition of the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The appellants Mohamed Hashim, M Siddiq, Misbahuddeen and Farooq Ahmad, represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhawan and Dushyant Dave, respectively, said the dispute was not just any other civil suit but probably the most important case in the history of India which would “decide the future of the polity”.

“The appeals will have My Lords decide whether this is a country where a mosque can be destroyed. This is not just another title suit. These appeals go to the very heart of our secular and democratic fabric,” Mr. Dhawan argued.

“Government is keen to have the court hear these appeals. Don’t fall into the trap,” Mr. Dave joined in.

Mr Sibal said the government was using the judiciary to realise its agenda for a Ram Mandir assured in the ruling BJP’s 2014 election manifesto. A hearing now fits the Sangh Parivar assurances to realise their promise of a temple through legal means, he said.

Mr Sibal also dissuaded the Supreme Court from hearing the appeals now, saying a “decision in the case will invite serious ramifications. Now is not the right time to hear it. It will have repercussions. It is already happening. Post it after July 15, 2019, when everything is over. We will not ask for an adjournment then”.

Uttar Pradesh government said it was ready to argue and reminded the court that it had refused, in the previous hearing in August, to entertain any adjournments when it posted for opening statements today. Mr Sibal protested, saying there were 190,00 documents involved in the case and it would only be fair on the part of the court to allow the lawyers more time to prepare.

“This case will be the most important case in India’s history. This will decide the future of India,” Mr Sibal submitted.

“Just a case like any other” vs “Not an ordinary suit”

Justice Ashok Bhushan, on the Bench with Justice S Abdul Nazeer, reminded Mr Sibal that it was the appellants who had wanted an early hearing in December/January of 2017. “Your submissions are non-serious,” Justice Bhushan observed.

At one point, Sibal, Dhawan and Dave made as if to leave the courtroom when the Bench refused their pleas and turned to hear senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, for the deity Ram Lalla, who offered to kick-off the hearing by making the opening statement.

In his counter, senior advocate Harish Salve for the respondents said the court need not be bothered by any repercussions outside. That is not the lookout of the court. As far as the court is concerned, the Ayodhya title dispute is just “a case” like any other before it, Mr Salve submitted.

“I’m not for a cause but for a client here… the strongest statement this court can make is to treat this case like any other and get on with the hearing,” Mr Salve submitted.

But Mr Sibal countered Mr Salve by pointing to how a five-judge Bench led by then Chief Justice of India M N Venkatachaliah had refused a Presidential reference in 1994 on the question whether Ram Mandir should be built in the disputed land and on the question of acquisition of land on 7 January 1993.

The Bench had also pronounced a token punishment to former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, under whose watch the monument was demolished.

“It was a rare occasion when the SC refused a Presidential reference… so this is not just an ordinary suit,” Mr Sibal said.

Mosque as an essential part of Islam

Mr Dhawan objected to Mr Salve, saying the case covers religion and faith and dates back to the era of King Vikramaditya.

The senior counsel said the question of whether a mosque was an essential part of Islam had to be decided. The senior counsel referred to the 1994 three-judge Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the Dr M Ismail Faruqui case, which had held that “the right to practise, profess and propagate religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution does not necessarily include the right to acquire or own or possess property. Similarly this right does not extend to the right of worship at any and every place of worship”.

“So is the mosque not an essential part of Islam? Muslims cannot go to the garden and pray,” Mr Dhawan submitted. He said the appeals should be referred to a five-judge Bench as it dealt with an important constitutional issue.

Mr Salve however countered that a reference to a larger Bench need to be made only as and when such an “occasion or context” arose, and not now.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ayodhya-title-dispute-sc-refuses-plea-to-defer-hearing-till-after-2019-elections/article21267595.ece?homepage=true