With the commencement of day-to-day hearings in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suits in Lucknow this week, the controversial 52-year-old case has been put on fast-forward. What actually helped speed up matters was the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court’s decision to remove the biggest bottleneck in the proceedings—it allowed statements of witnesses to be recorded by a one-member commission.
The witnesses are now deposing before the single-member commission headed by additional district judge Narendra Prasad. "It’ll now take about a week to record the statements of a witness, whereas the same had dragged on for six to eight months before the commission was set up," says Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC).
With the Union government pushing for speedy disposal of the cases, the court has decided that judges will be made available for the daily hearings on a priority basis. And the commission has been directed to go to the homes of witnesses who are unable to come to Lucknow to record their statements.
Favouring speedy adjudication, both the BMAC and the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas agreed to scale down the number of witnesses.
Currently, the statements of the Sunni Central Waqf Board witnesses are being recorded. The commission began its work on April 1 with the recording of the statement of the 25th Waqf witness. After the Waqf’s witnesses, the statements of those from the Nyas will be recorded.
The counsels for BMAC are keen on winding up the recording of their witnesses before the court closes for the summer recess next month. According to lawyers of both the parties, it might take about a year to record the statements of all the Nyas witnesses. The hearing, thereafter, is expected to continue for about six months after which the judgment would be delivered.
By this logic, it is expected that if everything goes smoothly the court verdict on the nation’s most controversial title suit will be out by early 2004.