Ayodhya: Mediation Fails

Court-mandated mediation efforts to sort out the Ayodhya title dispute has not resulted in any “settlement”, the Supreme Court said, and directed that all appeals and cross appeals in the case be listed for hearing on a day-to-day basis by a constitution bench from Tuesday.

A two-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi announced this decision on Friday. Any procedural issues would be sorted out during the hearing, the CJI, who was sitting alongside Justice Deepak Gupta, said.

The CJI was responding to a plea by senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, seeking at least 20 days’ time to argue the Sunni Central Wakf Board’s appeal against the 2010 Allahabad High Court order.

The high court had ordered to divide the disputed land in the ratio of two-to-one between the warring Hindu and Muslim parties. Both sides, however, wanted the sole title of 0.67 acre of disputed land, and appealed the order.

Dhavan also raised some other technical objections, which have resulted from the parties to the case being rejigged on the case list, and others such as BJP leader Subramanium Swamy being heard. “That would affect our right to reply,” the senior lawyer said. The CJI dismissed all his pleas and asked him to prepare for the case. “You prepare. Rest, we will see,” he said.

The hearing is expected to stretch over months and if the earlier rounds were any indication, the arguments would be bitter and volatile.

A five-judge bench led by the CJI will hear the appeals. Hearings will have to conclude before Justice Gogoi demits office on November 17, 2019. Next in line to be the Chief Justice, Justice SA Bobde, is also part of the bench, along with Justices DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer.

Before hearing the case, the Supreme Court directed that last-minute mediation efforts be made to sort out the issue and “heal” fractious ties between the two communities while the voluminous case records were readied for the hearing.

The three-member mediation panel was headed by former SC judge FMI Kalifullah. The other members were spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. The efforts seemed to have concluded without any solution in sight.

The Hindu parties had earlier moved the court seeking to have the mediation wrapped up quickly so that the hearing of the appeals could get underway, but the Muslim parties led by the Wakf board had insisted that the efforts be continued for some time more.

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