The Supreme Court has accepted the three-member mediation panel’s request and given it time till August 15 to come up with an amicable and lasting solution to the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in Ayodhya. A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer was to take up the panel’s report today which was submitted in a sealed cover the day before.
During the brief proceedings, the Muslim parties told the court that they are open to all possibilities of mediation, but the Nirmohi Akhara complained that there isn’t any mutual discussion among the parties. The Supreme Court, however, said it is satisfied with the way committee is proceeding. The mediation committee comprising former SC judge FMI Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, was constituted by the apex court on March 8.
While constitution the committee, the court had said that the mediation process would commence within a week and the panel would submit the progress report within four weeks. The panel was asked by the apex court to hold in-camera proceedings and complete them within eight weeks. The Constitution bench had said that it does not find any “legal impediment” to make a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the dispute.
The bench was told earlier by Hindu bodies, except for Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government that they oppose the court’s suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies supported the proposal.
While opposing the suggestion of mediation, Hindu bodies had argued that earlier attempts of reaching a compromise have failed and provisions of Civil Procedure Code (CPC) require public notice to be issued before the start of process.
The top court had 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 and not be revealed to any other person.
However, it had refrained from passing any specific restrain order at this stage and instead empowered the mediators to pass necessary orders in writing, if so required, to restrain publication of the details of the mediation proceedings.
The top court had fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km 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.
It had also directed that the mediation proceedings be held in-camera as per the norms applicable to conduct the mediation proceedings.
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.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.