The Supreme Court on Friday pushed for an "amicable" resolution for Ayodhya's Ram Janmanbhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case and ordered that a court-appointed panel undertake mediation to resolve the issue. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said that "no legal impediment was found in referring the matter to mediation".
The apex court has appointed a panel headed by former Supreme Court judge FM Khalifullah. Sri Sri Ravishankar and Sriram Panchu are to be the other two members of the panel. The apex court also allowed the panel of mediators to co-opt more members to the panel and said that in case of any difficulty they can inform apex court registry.
A crucial condition put in place by the Supreme Court is that the mediation process will be kept confidential and the media will not be allowed to report its developments.
The mediation process has also been directed to be "time-bound", reports said, adding that the mediation will span a duration of eight weeks in Uttar Pradesh's Faizabad. CNN-News18 reported that the mediation will begin in a week, and the first status report will be submitted in four weeks. The five-judge bench hearing the matter had on Wednesday reserved the order after hearing various contesting parties.
All Hindu bodies except Nirmohi Akhara had opposed the suggestion of the apex court to refer the issue for mediation, while Muslim bodies had supported it. The bench, which also comprised Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, had concluded the hearing by asking stakeholders to give the names of possible mediators on Wednesday.
Hindu bodies like Nirmohi Akhara suggested the names of Justices (retd) Kurian Joseph, AK Patnaik and GS Singhvi as mediators, while the Hindu Mahasabha faction of Swami Chakrapani proposed the names of former CJIs Justices JS Khehar and Dipak Misra and Justice (retd) AK Patnaik to the bench.
The apex court in its Wednesday hearing had observed that primarily the issue is not about 1,500 square feet land, but about religious sentiments. The bench had said it was conscious of the gravity and impact of the issue on "public sentiment" and also on "body politics of the country".
It has also said that the judges were aware of the history and were seeing that the dispute be resolved amicably as "it is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible." The bench had also said it was not appropriate to pre-judge that the mediation would fail and people would not agree with the decision.
"We are conscious about the gravity of the issue and we are also conscious about its impact on body politic of the country. We understand how it goes and are looking at minds, hearts and healing if possible," the bench said.
When a lawyer contended about the injustices meted out to the Hindus by invaders in the past, the bench said, "We are not concerned what has happened in the past. Don't you think we have read the history? We are not concerned what Babar did in the past or who was the king and who invaded. We cannot undo what has happened but we can go into what exists in the present moment".
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the legal heirs of original litigant M Siddiq, said that outlining of the dispute is not necessary and court can order mediation by a mediator, when parties are unable to settle it. To this, the bench said that there may not be one mediator but a panel of mediators to deal with the issue.
The bench had agreed with the contention of Dhavan that confidentiality of proceedings should be maintained and said it thinks there has to be complete ban on media reporting on the developments of mediation process. "It is not something like gag order but there should be no reporting. It is easy to attribute something to somebody when the mediation process is on," the bench had said.
During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud said that considering it is not just a property dispute between the parties but a dispute involving two communities, it would be very difficult to bind millions of people by way of mediation.
Two faction of Hindu Mahasabha took opposite stand on the issue of mediation with one body supporting it, the other opposing it. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had told the bench that the government has the right to give away land to whosoever it wants after paying compensation to the others.
"PV Narsimha Rao government had in 1994 made commitment to apex court that if ever any evidence was found that there was a temple, land will be given for temple construction," Swamy had submitted.
Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for Hindu deity Ram Lala Virajman had said the faith that Lord Rama was born in Ayodhaya is not negotiable but the question is of Rama Janamsthan (birth place).
"We are even willing to crowd-fund a mosque somewhere else but no negotiations can take place with respect of Lord Rama's birthplace. Mediation won't serve any purpose," he said. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, had said the court should refer the matter for mediation only when there exists an element of settlement.
He said considering the nature of the dispute it will not be prudent and advisable to take this path of mediation. 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 the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
Updated Date: Mar 08, 2019 13:35:28 IST