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Babri Masjid property dispute case
High Court Rejects plea
By Khadijatul Kubra, Lucknow

The three-Judge Special Bench of the Allahabad High Court, hearing title disputes over the property of Babri Masjid- Ram janambhoomi at Ayodhya (in Faizabad district) has rejected Uttar Pradesh Government plea that the statements of witnesses be recorded either by a single Judge of the Bench or through the appointment of a Commission to ensure the expeditious trial of the property case.

"Therefore, we are of the opinion that even an appointment of a Single Judge or a Commissioner will not ensure expeditious trial of the suits", the Bench comprising Mr. Justice Dinesh Kant Trivedi, Mr. Justice Syed Rafat Alam and Mr. Justice Bhanwar Singh observed in their two-page order on July 12 while disposing of the State Government application.

In a surprise move, the BJP's Rajnath Singh-led U.P. Government has urged the court to pass a suitable order "for ensuring speedy trial and final decision of the suits in the interest of justice", despite knowing full well that what would be the Court's reaction on this count. Now it is emerging that the BJP, similar to the Congress Party's stand wanted some kind of face saving before the hardliners who are threatening using same kind of force this time to start construction of Ram temple which they had resorted to for the destruction of the ancient monument of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The brief Court order is significant in many ways and the languages are pregnant with meanings, telling the tale how the trial suits is proceeding before the Special Bench. The Text of the order is as follows: "The application was moved by the State Government with the following prayer:

"It is, therefore, most respectfully prayed that suitable orders may be passed for ensuring speedy trial and final decision of the suits in the interest of justice". The learned Additional Advocate General (Mr. R.K. Singh) for the State submitted that looking to the public importance of the case, it is expedient that the trial of the these suits may be expedited and for this purpose he suggests that recording of evidence may be entrusted to a Single Judge instead of all the three Judges sitting together. He further suggests that recording of evidence may be made day to day so that there may not be long break resulting into lengthy cross-examination. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the plaintiffs and defendants submitted that they all agree for the speedy trial of the suit. However, with regard to the suggestion that the evidence should be recorded by a Single Judge, it is submitted by Shri Zafaryab Jilani and Shri R. L. Verma that neither it is feasible nor legally permissible and therefore, evidence can either be recorded by this Bench or on Commission basis. We appreciate the anxiety of the State. Even parties counsel also agree for speedy trial and disposal of the suits. Whenever witnesses are made available, this Court fixed a date with the consent of the parties and recorded the evidence. However, since most of the witnesses are coming from distant places, therefore, on the request of the parties and also looking to the convenience of the witnesses, the dates are fixed for recording evidence.

During the course of examination of the witnesses sometimes objections are filed by the parties which are also decided and disposed by the Bench. However, if the evidence would be recorded by the single Judge or on Commission, the objections raised by the parties cannot be disposed of by the Single Judge or the Commissioner and again the examination is to be deferred for an indefinite period, until a decision taken by the Bench. On the prayer of the parties, the Commissioners have been appointed in the past to record evidence of the witnesses. Recently, in the month of June this year, two witnesses were examined on commission. However, it is different that in the midst of examination objections were filed and recording of the statements was stalled on account of which cross examination of witnesses had to be postponed by the Commissioners and those objections and those objections were referred to this Bench for decision. The net result is delay. Therefore, we are of the opinion that even an appointment of a Single Judge or a Commissioner will not ensure expeditious trial of these suits.

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