Ayodhya: SC rules in favour of mediation

The Supreme Court referred the Ayodhya title dispute to mediation in a bid to resolve the issue amicably and restore communal harmony. A three member panel headed by former top court judge FMI Kalifulla will conduct the mediation in Faizabad, close to Ayodhya, starting in a week’s time. The other members of the team will be Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.

All parties to the dispute will take part in the proceedings, which will be held in-camera and won’t be open to the public, the court said. The bench did not gag the media, but urged it to refrain from reporting on the issue, possibly to allow both parties the space they need to make the appropriate concessions required to arrive at a compromise.

The court left the panel of mediators to decide for themselves the procedure to be followed and who they should call. “The mediators may take such legal assistance as they may feel necessary at any stage of the mediation proceedings,” it said.

The panel can also pass orders as it deems fit to keep the media at bay. The mediators will report to the court in four weeks on the progress made, allowing it to gauge whether the process is working. The mediators can also seek more time from the court to complete the process.

Any eventual settlement will be vetted by the court. In case mediation fails, the top court will hear and adjudicate the matter.

At its last hearing, the court had said that at least eight weeks will be needed to ready the paperwork for a hearing.

The court wanted to use that window to explore the possibility of coming to a peaceful, negotiated settlement through an alternate dispute mechanism.

“We cannot undo what has happened in the past, but we can definitely settle the dispute and heal ties,” the five-judge bench, led by chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had observed. The bench also includes justices SA Bobde (next in line to succeed Gogoi when he demits office later this year), DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

Mediation was opposed by the Hindu parties to the case, pointing out that earlier attempts had failed. They argued that it was their faith and their belief that Lord Rama was born at the spot and that this cannot be compromised.

The Muslim parties, however, were agreeable to taking another shot at mediation. The court had heard arguments both for and against its suggestion before ruling that there was no impediment to mediation.

The Allahabad High Court had in 2010 partitioned the land on which the demolished structure stood in the ratio of 2:1, with two parts going to the Hindu applicants. All parties appealed against the decision. Any settlement will come about within the broad contours of the high court judgement. That will entail unanimity on building a Ram temple and the Muslim parties ceding their onethird share of the 1.67 acres of disputed land in return for land elsewhere on the other 67 acres acquired by the government to build a mosque.

No comments: