CJI-led 5-Judge Bench to Hear Ayodhya Case

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has set up a five judge bench to hear the Ayodhya title suit beginning January 10. The bench will be headed by CJI Gogoi himself and will include his successor SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud.

CJI Gogoi’s decision effectively rescinded an earlier judicial ruling of former CJI Dipak Misra in which he had refused to place the issue for hearing before a Constitution bench. Former CJI Misra had passed a judicial order to this effect.

Under court conventions, a smaller bench frames legal issues and sends it to a larger bench for consideration if it feels that the case so requires.

New bench also does not include the other two judges — justices Abdul Nazir and Ashok Bhushan — who had earlier heard the case. Justice Nazir had, in fact, given a dissenting order urging the court to list the case before a five-judge bench, but he was overruled 2:1.

Former CJI Misra has since demitted office. By convention, matters are usually listed before benches which have heard the case earlier to ensure continuity.

The new bench comprises judges who are all in line to become CJI at some point of time given their seniority in the court’s pecking order. Justice Bobde will succeed Gogoi as the next CJI of India.

CJI Gogoi will demit office in November 2019, which implies that the case will have to be wound up by that date or else it will be reheard by another bench, effectively forcing the bench to have daily hearings to conclude the contentious case that has been lying with the apex court since 2010.

The Allahabad High Court had in 2010 divided the disputed site in the ratio of 2:1 between the two warring parties. Both sides are unhappy with the judgement and have appealed with the Supreme Court.

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