Ayodhya hearing: Supreme Court reserves verdict in title suit; Justices Chandrachud and Bobde disagree on mediation process

  • The Supreme Court reserved its order on resolving the long-standing Ayodhya land dispute by mediation on Wednesday

  • Justice SA Bobde appeared to be in favour of a mediator, or a mediation panel to resolve the dispute

  • However, Justice Chandrachud questioned whether millions of people, whose faith was intertwined with the verdict, could be expected to abide by the outcome of mediation process

The Supreme Court reserved its order on resolving the long-standing Ayodhya land dispute by mediation on Wednesday, stating that the parties can meanwhile suggest names of possible mediators that may be appointed in case it decides to send the matter for mediation. A five-judge Constitution bench, deliberating on the matter, appeared divided on whether mediation was the best way to resolve the decades-old dispute which concerns members of Hindu and Muslim communities.

Some of the Hindu litigants in the case, including Ram Lalla Virajman group, had opposed the mediation claiming the matter related to the birthplace of the Hindu deity and no party can alone appropriate a matter of faith in the mediation process. They also said that several such attempts have failed in the past.

 Ayodhya hearing: Supreme Court reserves verdict in title suit; Justices Chandrachud and Bobde disagree on mediation process

Representational image. AFP

"It is an issue of faith for the Hindus. We are even willing to crowd fund for construction of a mosque somewhere else... Mediation won't serve any purpose," CS Vaidyanathan, lawyer for one of these parties said.

The Uttar Pradesh government also opposed the mediation process, stating that it would not be the best option under the current circumstances.

However, the Nirmohi Akhada and the Sunni Waqf Board appeared inclined to give the mediation process. Iqbal Ansari, the key litigant from the Muslim side said he was willing for a mutually acceptable solution, including a resolution by court.

Divided bench

Meanwhile, the judges were not united in their opinion. While Justice SA Bobde, who had initially floated the suggestion of mediation, said that a panel can intervene and the process may succeed if complete confidentiality is maintained, Justice DY Chandrachud questioned whether the millions of members from both sects can be expected to abide by conditions agreed upon in the mediation process.

When the lawyer of one of the Hindu parties opposed mediation saying that even if parties agree, public will not agree to a compromise, Justice Bobde said, "You are assuming that there will be a compromise and one party will give up and one party will win. Mediation does not necessarily mean that. You are thinking about the outcome."

Taking a moderate view, the court said that they cannot undo Babar's invasion or other historical wrongs. But we can only look into the current situation and ensure that the right solution comes out of a very sensitive matter.

"We have no control over what happened in the past, who invaded, who was the king, temple or mosque. We know about the present dispute. We are concerned only about resolving the dispute," Justice Bobde said.

He also observed that the confidentiality of the mediation process was compulsory to ensure such a process succeeds. "When the mediation is on, it should not be reported on. It may not be a gag, but no motive should be attributed to anyone when the mediation process is on."

However Justice DY Chandrachud differed slightly in his observation and said that since the matter concerns the faith of millions, it would be difficult to bind millions of people to the outcome of mediation.

"Even though the hope for a negotiated outcome is best here.. Considering that Ayodhya dispute is not between two private parties but it concerns two communities, how can they be binded under the mediated resolution if any?," Justice Chandrachud asked.

Justice Chandrachud pointed out that it is not just a dispute between parties but a dispute involving two communities. "How do we bind millions of people by way of mediation. It won't be that simple," he said.

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, one of the petitioners in case, told the Supreme Court that the government has the right to give away land to whomsoever it wants after paying compensation to the others. Swamy also cited a 1994-letter by former  prime minister PV Narasimha Rao that said the land will be given for temple's construction if evidence comes to fore.

The five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had earlier said that even if there is "one percent chance" of settling the dispute amicably, the parties should go for mediation. The bench comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, and the CJI had observed that the case was not only a dispute between private litigants but the followers of two faiths.

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.

While some of the Muslim parties agreed to the court's suggestion on mediation, some Hindu bodies including the Ram Lalla Virajman opposed it, saying several such attempts have failed in the past.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Mar 06, 2019 12:55:33 IST