Ayodhya dispute: Panel led by former Supreme Court judge to mediate

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Published: March 9, 2019 5:48:38 AM

The Supreme Court on Friday referred the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation by a three-member panel led by its former judge FMI Kalifulla.

The SC also fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around seven kms from Ayodhya. (File/IE)

The Supreme Court on Friday referred the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation by a three-member panel led by its former judge FMI Kalifulla.

The dispute is over 2.7 acres of land in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, on which the 16th-century Babri mosque stood before it was demolished on December 6, 1992 by Hindu right-wing activists, who believe it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had allotted two-thirds of the land equally among the three parties to the temple-mosque dispute — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Ram).

As many as 14 appeals have been filed against the judgment, both by Hindu and Muslim organisations. The apex court in 2011 stayed the HC order.
The three-member panel also comprises spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.

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Stating that there is no “legal impediment” in exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement, a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the panel will be at liberty “to co-opt other members of the panel, if so required.”

The top court directed that the mediation proceedings should be conducted with “utmost confidentiality” for ensuring its success and the views expressed by any of the parties including the mediators should be kept confidential. “We are of the further opinion that while the mediation proceedings are being carried out, there ought not to be any reporting of the said proceedings either in the print or in the electronic media,” it said, while leaving it to the mediators to pass any such restraint orders on publication of the details of the mediation proceedings.

BSP leader Mayawati called the SC move “appreciable” while CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said the previous mediation efforts had failed to yield results but this time, the Court is monitoring it and all the parties who have gone to the court are in agreement with the decision and it is to be seen what will be the result.

The court also directed that the mediation proceedings be held in-camera and to be completed within eight weeks, which is the interregnum period granted earlier by the apex court to the parties to go through translations of oral and documentary evidences in the case. The panel is supposed to start the mediation process within a week and submit its progress report within four weeks to the top court.

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The SC also fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around seven kms from Ayodhya, and said that the adequate arrangements including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel should be forthwith arranged by the state government so that proceedings could commence immediately.

“The chairman of the mediation panel may also inform the registry of this court any difficulties that the panel may face in carrying out the task assigned to it by the present order and also to inform of any requirement to facilitate the mediation and to conclude the same at the earliest,” the bench said.

While the Muslim bodies had supported the proposal, Hindu groups, except for Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government had opposed the Bench’s suggestion for mediation. Hindus had told the court that earlier attempts of reaching a compromise had failed and provisions of Civil Procedure Code (CPC) required public notice to be issued before the start of process.

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