Senior lawyer and Congress leader Kapil Sibal was representing the legal heir of the oldest litigant in the Ayodhya case, not the Sunni Waqf Board.
New Delhi: In a fresh twist to the controversy surrounding Kapil Sibal’s statements before the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya title case, it turns out that he did not appear on behalf of the Sunni Central Waqf Board. In fact, when he made the controversial appeal to the court not to hear the case till 2019, he was actually representing Iqbal Ansari, legal heir of Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the case.
Sibal, along with senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Rajeev Dhawan, had requested the court not to hear the case till 2019, as the verdict could influence the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Ansari’s lawyer M.R. Shamshad told ThePrint that far from being Sibal’s own stand, his statement was “part of a well-thought out legal strategy”.
Meanwhile, Zafaryab Jilani, the lawyer representing the Sunni Central Waqf Board, told ThePrint: “Kapil Sibal did not appear for us. In fact, we did not engage a senior counsel.”
Jilani is also the convenor of the Babri Action Committee, and a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Criticism had poured in after the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board initially distanced itself from Sibal’s statements, and said it would want the issue resolved at the earliest. The confusion arose after the apex court order, on 5 December, recorded that Sibal appeared for the Waqf Board, based on an incorrect appearance slip submitted by a lawyer.
However, the Chief Justice’s order records in the first paragraph that Sibal appeared only in two petitions filed by Ansari.
On 6 December, the penultimate day of campaigning for the first phase of the Gujarat assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at Sibal for linking the Ram Mandir issue with elections. Sibal denied speaking on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board, and said Modi should fact-check before making such statements.
The apex court fixed 8 February 2018 as the date for hearing the civil appeals in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute. A three-judge bench is hearing 13 appeals filed against the 2010 Allahabad High Court ruling that allowed a three-way division of the disputed 2.77-acre land between the All India Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara, and Ram Lalla.