In the age of instant news, nothing is beyond the pale of instant judgement either. Even a routine development in a case—the Supreme Court decision to defer the Ayodhya case hearing to the first week of January, for instance. The apex court has taken this time to reconstitute the bench, now comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph. Two senior judges who have heard the case earlier, Justices Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer, could either be added or replace some of the judges or a wholly new bench could be constituted. It’s only in the fitness of things that judges who have a fine-grained familiarity with the minutiae of the case are brought back and the incumbent CJI too familiarises himself with the voluminous depositions and papers of the case.
Anyone could have seen this as the most logical course of action, if only emotions and tempers or the tendency to issue political barbs could be kept under check. Not every decision of the court can or should be seen as some of kind of T20 match won or lost—certainly not procedural ones. It’s worse if cases are seen in the context of whether a political dispensation has won or lost a brownie point. It should have been obvious to critics from the decisions on the CBI fracas that no such consideration enters the court’s mind.
The CJI, who has been focusing on cutting down pendency of cases, was categorical that the court’s priority right now would not be served by plunging headlong into hearing this time-consuming case on a day-to-day basis. The civil suit arises out of the Allahabad High Court judgment by which the disputed land was divided into three parts. The scheduling of its hearing, or any deferment, would be up to the reconstituted bench. Given the fact that a new Lok Sabha will have to be in place by May, election heat would begin to peak by March. How the Ayodhya title suit plays out during those days would depend on the political parties.