New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that the Ayodhya dispute must be settled amicably through “a cordial meeting” of all parties, and Chief Justice J.S. Khehar offered his personal mediation to help resolve the matter.
The court’s remarks came after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy sought an early hearing of his plea seeking permission to build a Ram temple at the site of the demolished Babri mosque.
“These are issues of religion and sentiments. These are issues where all the parties can sit together and arrive at a consensual decision to end the dispute. All of you may sit together and hold a cordial meeting,” a bench headed by Khehar said in an oral observation.
“If you want me between mediators of both sides, I am ready,” the Chief Justice added, laying down the scenario for a possible alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
The apex court bench, which also included justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S.K. Kaul, observed that a solution to such religious issues should be found through negotiations.
The observation came days after the BJP capped its election win in Uttar Pradesh by appointing Yogi Adityanath, a strong supporter of the move to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya, as chief minister.
Swamy moved the apex court in November last year seeking day-to-day hearings on a batch of pleas relating to the dispute.
“It is my suggestion that one side of the Saryu river there be a mosque and the Ram Janmabhoomi be given for Ram temple. We want that the court suggest the name of a mediator and hope that next Friday, the decision is made by the court. We are ready to compromise and want that a mosque and a temple be made.
The place where Ram was born cannot be changed and a mosque can be made anywhere. This decision can be through talks and the court should make a final decision. Court said that both sides sit together and then come to the court,” Swamy told reporters outside the court on Tuesday.
Swamy’s case was tagged along with appeals against a 2010 Allahabad high court verdict that mandated a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acre site.
The Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court had ruled in favour of partitioning the land equally among three parties—the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the ‘Ram Lalla’ (infant Lord Ram), represented by the Hindu Mahasabha.
A civil suit for deciding the title of the property on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished on 6 December 1992, was filed before the high court. The apex court stayed this decision in 2011. On Tuesday, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a party in the court case, said that it was ready to cooperate with the Supreme Court. “We have come to know about the observations made by the Supreme Court. If the chief justice is ready mediate we are also ready to cooperate. But there can be no private negotiation in the case,” said Zafaryab Jilani, a member of the board.
A BJP spokesperson welcomed the court’s observation and said the party would study it. “What we gather from reports, the SC has used these words for the Ram temple issue: ‘sensitive’, which we respect; ‘sentimental’ because it is an issue of faith of millions of people; and they have called for an out-of-court settlement. The court has said that the aggrieved parties should amicably settle the issue talking to each other. We welcome this step and believe there should be talks outside the court as well,” spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
The Congress party said: “The SC has advised both the sides to take this out of court through dialogue and harmonious consultation...If a consensus emerges out the consultation process between people from both the communities, it will be the best way to ensure social harmony and peace. If not, the judiciary is capable of hearing both the sides and taking a decision.”
A settlement may be the best way forward, a political analyst said.
“People of the state do not want the social fabric to be disturbed. The BJP won the election because it had made development, improvement in law and order and good governance its focus. If the two communities can sit together and discuss all the issues that it would be the best solution,” said A.K Verma, professor of political science at Christ Church College, Kanpur.
PTI, Anuja, and Pretika Khanna contributed to the story.