Apex court defers petition seeking to put off verdict

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 23 2010, 07:01am hrs
With the verdict in the Ayodhya title suits due later this week, the Supreme Court on Wednesday chose to defer hearing a petition seeking to postpone the judgment.

The petition was filed by Ramesh Chandra Tripathi five days after a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, on a ratio of 2:1, rejected his petition to defer its verdict, due on September 24, in the 60-year-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, and allow mediation among contesting parties.

At the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Tripathis petition quotes reasons from the Commonwealth Games to floods in north India to tension in the Valley to even the alleged burning of the Quran in the US to argue that September 24 is not the right time in public interest to pronounce the judgment.

Security forces are spread scarce over several fronts and would not be in a position to countenance the projected apprehensions of violence, he stated.

The petition first came up today before the Supreme Court Bench of Justices Altmas Kabir and AK Patnaik at 10.30 am. The Bench agreed to hear it at 2 pm. But, in the afternoon, the Bench observed in open court that, post consultations with the Chief Justice of India, it was found that it did not have jurisdiction over the petition.

Justice Kabir, the lead judge on the Bench, said the cause of action in the petition arises from a civil suit, and the Bench did not have the determination or jurisdiction to hear civil suits.

This arises out of a civil suit. We do not have the determination, the Bench told Tripathis lawyers during the post-lunch session before a packed courtroom. We would have had no hesitation to hear this if we had the determination, the court said.

But we did mention it (the petition) in the morning, Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for Tripathi, asked.

To which the Bench repeated that it cannot hear the matter, while observing that is now up to the Chief Justice of India to re-allot the petition for hearing before another Bench, and the date of hearing duly notified. Rohtagi responded that by that time the matter would become infructuous.

Tripathis petition draws strength mainly from the dissenting judgment of Justice DV Sharma, one of the three judges in the Lucknow Special Bench, who differed with his fellow judgesJustices SU Khan and Sudhir Agrawalin imposing a fine of Rs 50,000 on Tripathi.

Justice Sharma in his minority judgement on September 20 said he is unable to form an opinion that Tripathis request to push back the judgment date to give way for mediation lacks bonafides. Justice Sharma had backed the litigant, claiming his petition could not be considered as a move to divert or deviate the final disposal of the suits.

Tripathi contended that Justice Sharmas observation that he was not consulted at the time of passing of the order amounted to no judgement in the eyes of law.