Lalit’s recusal prompted the apex court to adjourn the hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case till 29 January, before which a new bench will be set up by the court.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, also comprised Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, and DY Chandrachud, apart from justice Lalit.
Here’s why Lalit chose to recuse himself from the matter:
As soon as the bench assembled, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a Muslim party, told the court that Justice Lalit had appeared for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh in 1994.
Though Dhavan said he was not seeking recusal of Justice Lalit, the judge himself opted out the hearing the matter.
Kalyan Singh was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the masjid was demolished. He, however resigned, from the post on the evening of 6 December after having failed to control the situation. Singh had signed an affidavit before the Supreme Court before the rally on 6 December saying he will ensure that the mosque won’t be harmed.
Lalit had represented Singh in a contempt of court case related to the Ayodhya case where the Supreme Court had found Singh guilty. The court had imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on Singh and sent him to prison for a day.
Dhavan also reportedly objected that the matter was earlier fixed for hearing before a three-judge bench but the CJI took a decision to list it before a five-judge Constitution Bench. He further said that there was a need for a judicial order to set up a five-judge Constitution bench.
When the matter was last taken up on 4 January, there was no indication that the case would be referred to a Constitution bench as the apex court had simply said that further orders in the matter would be passed on 10 January by “the appropriate bench, as may be constituted”.
Who is UU Lalit?
Justice Lalit joined the bar in 1983 and started practicing in the Supreme Court in 1983.
He was designated as a senior advocate in the Supreme Court in 2004. He was elevated as a judge in the top court in 2014.
Justice Lalit has appeared in several high profile cases in the past during his time as a lawyer. He appeared for actor Salman Khan in the black buck poaching case, for Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in a corruption case and for Navjot Singh Sidhu in a culpable homicide case, says LiveLaw.
Justice Lalit is also believed to have represented BJP President Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases.
During his time as advocate of the Supreme Court he was also appointed the special public prosecutor in the 2G spectrum scam case.