On the last day of daily hearings in the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya temple-mosque case, there were dramatic moments as a senior lawyer tore up a map and relentless interruptions infuriated the judges.
Rajeev Dhavan, representing the Muslim Waqf Board in the title suit, tore up a pictorial map showing the Ram Janmasthan. “Can I have your permission to tear it,” Mr Dhavan said to the judges. He acted after Vikas Singh, the lawyer for the All India Hindu Mahasabha, tried to place a publication by Kunal Kishore as evidence during his arguments claiming ownership of the disputed land in the temple town in Uttar Pradesh.
“The Supreme Court should not rely on this book,” Mr Dhavan said, requesting permission to tear it up.
“You do what you want,” replied Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. “You can shred it further,” he then said.
After the pages were torn, interruptions from both sides and the commotion angered the judges.
“Decorum has been spoiled, decorum is not maintained. If proceedings continue in this manner, we would just get up and walk out,” said the Chief Justice.
Later, Mr Dhavan complained to the top judge that the “news that I am tearing papers is going viral”.
“I wanted to throw it away. The Chief Justice said I can tear it,” he pointed out.
“The news of tearing is going viral. We have seen it,” Justice SA Nazeer said.
In another notable exchange, Mr Dhavan described the argument of PN Mishra, the lawyer for the Hindi petitioners, as “foolish”.
“Mr Mishra’s argument is next to foolish. Please sit down. He doesn’t know. It is not personal,” Mr Dhavan said.
PN Mishra, protesting the descriptor, said: “I have written a book on land law and got a PhD…” To which, Mr Dhavan shot back: “I can salam (salute) his book (sic).”
Justice Gogoi said the lawyer could put out a clarification that it was the Chief Justice who had allowed him to tear the paper.
Daily hearings in the politically sensitive case will end at 5 pm, the Chief Justice said as the proceedings began this morning. “We will rise by 5 pm. Enough is enough,” Chief Justice Gogoi said after a lawyer asked the Supreme Court for more time for arguments.
The court is expected to announce a verdict in the 134-year-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit before the Chief Justice leaves office on November 17.
Many Hindus believe the land was the birthplace of Lord Ram and a mosque was built there on the ruins of an ancient temple. The 16th century Babri mosque was razed in December 1992 by right-wing activists, a cataclysmic event that sparked riots across the country and changed Indian politics forever.