New Delhi: Making a big move amid the growing clamour for bringing law of the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Centre on Tuesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking permission to return all excess land at the disputed site.

In a fresh plea, the Centre said it had acquired 67 acres of land around the 2.77 acre disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site.

The plea has said that the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (a trust to promote construction of Ram Temple) had sought return of excess land acquired in 1991 to original owners.

Earlier, the apex court had ordered that the status quo be maintained with regard to the acquired 67 acre of land around the disputed site.

The central government in 1991 had acquired 67 acre land around the disputed site.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad welcomed the move, saying the step was in right direction. “This land belongs to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and is not under any litigation. This is a step in right direction and we welcome it,” VHP’s international working president Alok Kumar said.

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also welcomed the Centre’s write petition. “We welcome the move by the Centre. We have been saying that we should get permission to use the undisputed land,” he said.

Shiv Sena, which has been pressurising the BJP government at the Centre to being a law for temple’s construction, also welcomed the move.

The government’s petition comes two days after the Supreme Court postponed the hearing in the Ayodhya title suit case, scheduled on January 29, due to the unavailability of one of the judges, Justice SA Bobde.

Minutes before hearing in the Ayodhya matter was cancelled, Yog Guru Ramdev had asked the government to take a initiative for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

Union Law Minister had on Monday disapproved of the slow pace of hearing on the Ayodhya title suit and appealed the Supreme Court for an “expeditious decision” as had been done in the matters related to adultery and Sabarimala temple.

Prasad qualified his views with the remark that he spoke as a citizen and not as the law minister.

On January 10, the apex court had constituted a new five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Abdul Nazeer, Justice SA Bobde and Justice DY Chandrachud to hear the case.

Earlier this month, the prime minister had said that any decision on passing an executive order on the Ram temple issue cannot be made unless the judicial process is over.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

On January 10, the bench in its order had noted that the apex court registry’s secretary general has informed the CJI that in four suits, out of which these appeals have arisen, in all 120 issues have been framed for trial and a total of 88 witnesses were examined.

It had noted that depositions of witnesses run into 13,886 pages and a total of 257 documents exhibited.