NEW DELHI: The Monday after Diwali turned out to be a busy day at the Supreme Court, which heard and reviewed a number of important cases.

The day began with a request for an early hearing of the Ram Janmabhoomi/ Babri Masjid title dispute. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.K Kaul declined the petition, filed on behalf of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, saying, “We have already passed the order. The appeals are coming up in January. Permission for early hearing declined.”

The court had earlier announced that the Ram Janmabhoomi/ Babri Masjid land dispute case will be heard in the first week of January by “an appropriate bench”, which will decide the timeline of hearing.

Next, the Supreme Court ripped into the Bihar government and asked the state’s two top bureaucrats to explain why former minister Manju Verma had not yet been traced. Verma has been linked to the cases of serial child sexual abuse in government shelter homes reported earlier this year.

“Fantastic... an ex-cabinet minister is not traceable... You will have to explain… How is it that no one knows where the ex-minister is?” the bench asked.

If Manju Verma has not been traced by November 27, the Bihar police chief will have to be present in court to explain why. The court has also summoned the chief secretary of Bihar and asked him to explain in person why action was not taken against 14 other shelter homes, in which cases of torture and sexual abuse of girls were reported by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

It was nine months ago in February that a team of officials from TISS submitted a report of their audit of the Muzaffarpur shelter home to the Bihar government’s department of social welfare.

The Supreme Court also dismissed a plea filed by some personnel of the Manipur Police seeking the recusal of judges of the bench in the Manipur fake encounter cases which a Central Bureau of Investigation special investigation team is currently probing on the apex court’s orders. The petitioners claimed that the judges had earlier termed some of the accused, chargesheeted by the SIT in fake encounter cases, as “murderers”.

A bench comprising Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit said there was no reason for these policemen to doubt the SIT and the probe conducted by it in these cases. The bench said, “The institutional integrity of the judiciary and the CBI must be maintained.”

In addition, a bench comprising Chief Justice Gogoi and Justice Kaul adjourned until Friday, November 16 the hearing of a plea on behalf of CBI Director Alok Verma against the October 23 orders of the Central Vigilance Commission and the central government, which divested him of all his powers and functions in the CBI.

(Cover Photograph: Bihar Former Minister Manju Verma who is absconding)