A Constitution bench comprising five judges and headed by the Chief Justice is conducting the hearing on the matter.
As senior advocate Shekhar Naphade appeared for a Muslim party, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said in a huff that “Things are not going as per our schedule! We are hard pressed for time.”
The Chief Justice had queried Naphade on the time require to complete the argument, as the court was scheduled to hear the matter till 1 p.m. Naphade replied that he had already argued for 45 minutes, and he would require at least an hour or a bit more to wrap-up his arguments on the matter.
He was arguing on res judicata, a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties. Earlier in the day senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, part of the Muslim legal team, completed her arguments on the Archaeological Survey of India report.
The Chief Justice got up from the bench with 15 minutes to lunch. According to lawyers, the bench had expected Naphade to conclude his arguments.
“Although, it appeared that Chief Justice may sit for bit longer and allow the arguing senior advocate to complete his argument, but the reversed happened,” said a lawyer on the condition of anonymity.
Naphade was arguing before the court on the lawsuit filed by Mahant Raghuvardas in 1885. The district court had documented that Hindus had control over the Ram Chabutra, and it rejected their plea regarding the ownership of the entire disputed site.
On Wednesday, the apex court had reiterated the need to complete arguments in the Ayodhya title dispute by October 18. The Chief Justice said the court cannot give a single extra day more to the parties to complete the arguments in the cross-appeals where they seek ownership over the 2.77 acre disputed land in Ayodhya.
The Chief Justice had accordingly chalked out the timeframe for the counsels of each party, and urged the parties to comply with it. “It will be miraculous to take out a judgement in four weeks,” said the Chief Justice on if arguments were completed by October 18. He retires on November 17.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice restated that the bench is already hard-pressed for time and parties attempting to breach the deadline “will be at their own peril.” Most arguments are expected to be concluded on October 4, and if possible, five working days after Dusshera vacations can be reserved for the matter.