SC Bench on Ram temple

The Supreme Court has finally stilled the impatience of the Hindutva crowd with the setting up of a five-judge Bench to hear the socially and politically divisive Ram janmabhoomi-Babri masjid dispute. The Bench was to be reconstituted after the retirement of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra in October. The perceived delay raised political temperatures. They also increased pressure on PM Modi for an out-of-court sleight that would forestall the 2019 election narrative from revolving around issues such as jobs and farmers’ problems where the BJP has fallen short on its promises. The lack of any perceptible movement would have made many in the BJP uneasy as well, for it opens the party to charges of promising the Ram temple as an election-time bait.

The RSS, more than other Hindutva organisations, has backed the PM’s statement asking for the judicial process to take its own course and his subsequent assurance in a TV interview that ‘after the judicial process is over, whatever be our responsibility as government, we are ready to make all efforts.’ The PM’s statement is also in tune with the 2014 election manifesto that — to be fair to BJP — had not promised a temple but only to ‘explore all possibilities’ to facilitate its construction within the framework of the Constitution. However, there have been persistent ‘independent voices’ that pin hopes on the present government if the judicial process takes time.

The impatience makes it appear as if the Hindutva groups are seeking a judicial closure. They seek to paper over a sorry chapter during which naked, majoritarian muscularity triumphed over the law of the land. If the circle is ever squared, there should be matching impatience over the slow pace of another related trial — for demolishing the masjid. In fact, the delayed criminal conspiracy case against several serving Union ministers is more unconscionable and its judgment should have ideally come before the present title suit. A handful of weeks before the General Election is notified, it is crucial to maintain a distinct dividing line between judicial processes and politics of the land.