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SC to constitute fresh 5-judge bench; Justice U U Lalit recuses

SC to constitute fresh 5-judge bench; Justice U U Lalit recuses
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to constitute a new five-judge Constitution bench to hear the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute on January 29 after a judge, Justice U U Lalit, recused himself.

Justice Lalit, who was part of a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, opted out of the hearing when the counsel for a Muslim party said he had appeared for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh as a lawyer in 1994.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who spoke up soon after the court assembled, said he was not seeking Justice Lalit's recusal.

The bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, noted the submissions made by Dhavan.

Dhavan also drew the attention of the bench to the fact that the matter was earlier fixed for hearing before a three-judge bench, but the CJI decided to list it before a five-judge Constitution Bench.

He further submitted that there was the need for a judicial order to set up a five-judge Constitution bench.

The CJI, however, quoted Supreme Court rules mandating that any bench should comprise two judges and there was nothing wrong in constituting a five-judge Constitution bench.

Given the facts and circumstances of the matter and the voluminous records on it, this was a fit case for constituting a five-judge bench, he said.

In its order, the bench said the apex court registry would physically examine the records stored in 50 sealed trunks in the room, which has also been kept sealed.

The top court said the records on the matter are voluminous and some of the documents are in Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Persian and Gurmukhi that need to be translated.

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