Associate Partner

Ayodhya case: 'Mediation' in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute can expand scope of alternative dispute resolution in India

  • SC has ordered the mediation to be completed within 8 months and the first report to be submitted within four weeks

  • Former Supreme Court judge FM Kalifulla, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate and mediator Sriram Panchu will constitute the three-team mediation panel

  • As India's one of the oldest and most-aggressively fought case goes for mediation, working of alternative dispute resolution and how effective it has been can throw some light on the future of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case

General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a convention on 'mediation' in December last year, highlighting the benefits of this route of "amicable resolution of disputes".

Now, as the Supreme Court has ordered the 60-year-old Ayodhya case to be decided by a court-monitored mediation team, it will be interesting to see if one of the most controversial cases in India's history gets resolved through mediation.

The court has ordered the mediation to be completed within 8 months and the first report to be submitted within four weeks. Former Supreme Court judge FM Kalifulla, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate and mediator Sriram Panchu will constitute the three-team mediation panel. The apex court also allowed the panel of mediators to co-opt more members to the panel.

As India's one of the oldest and most-aggressively fought case goes for mediation, working of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and how effective it has been can throw some light on the future of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case.

 Ayodhya case: Mediation in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute can expand scope of alternative dispute resolution in India

Representational image. Reuters

Earlier the Constitution bench, which was hearing the case, had observed that if there is even one percent chance of settling the dispute amicably, the parties should go for mediation — a clear message about Supreme Court's seriousness in referring the case for mediation.

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 embodies the legislative mandate to the court to refer sub judice disputes to various ADR mechanisms enunciated therein where it finds it appropriate to do so, in order to enable the parties to finally resolve their pending cases through well-established dispute resolution methods other than litigation.

Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure states: "Where it appears to the Court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the Court shall formulate the terms of settlement and give them to the parties for their observations and after receiving the observations of the parties, the Court may re-formulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for:

a) arbitration;
b) conciliation;
c) judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat; or
d) mediation.

Even the Law Commission of India in its 129th report had "recommended the introduction of the conciliation court system and had underlined the importance of conciliation/ mediation as a mode of ADR".

Following the Law Commission's recommendations certain amendments were made in Section 89 and with that it was made obligatory for the civil courts to make attempts for settlement of disputes by relegating the parties to an ADR process.

While it has been made obligatory for the courts to take initiatives for ensuring the settlement through ADR an essential prerequisite is that the court should be satisfied that elements of settlement exist and can guide the mediation.

Eminent jurist Fali Nariman in an interview to CNN-NEWS 18 had said that mediation as a process of settlement of disputes is highly recommended. According to the figures available with the National Legal Service Authority (NLSA) between April, 2017 to March 2018, 10,7587 cases have been settled through mediation.

At least 2,297 judicial officers acted as mediators, 4,875 lawyers were deployed as mediators and 815 others helped in mediation process.

It is a fact that mediation and ADR has helped greatly in reducing the burden on judiciary but at the same time it is also true that it will be for first time that a case, which is more than six decades old and with far reaching social and political ramifications will be decided through mediation.

In 2010, the Supreme Court had declined to refer the case for mediation and the Allahabad High Court which was hearing the case had penalised a retired bureaucrat who had filed moved a plea seeking mediation.

Nine years after the Supreme Court order that this politically and socially significant case be decided through mediation, not only it creates hope for its resolution but will also expand the scope of mediation as route of settling long running disputes.

The Great Diwali Discount!
Unlock 75% more savings this festive season. Get Moneycontrol Pro for a year for Rs 289 only.
Coupon code: DIWALI. Offer valid till 10th November, 2019 .

Updated Date: Mar 08, 2019 13:35:17 IST