NEW DELHI: Day-to-day hearings in the Ayodhya land dispute will begin on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered on Friday, noting that more than four months of efforts to mediate between rival Hindu and Muslim claimants had failed.
It’s a decision with far-reaching implications, spelling another prolonged set of hearings on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute, which, in turn, brings the issue back in the spotlight owing to its political sensitivity.
“We have received the report submitted by the chairman of the committee, Justice Kalifulla. We have perused the same. Mediation proceedings have not resulted in any kind of final settlement. Therefore, we have to proceed with the hearing of the appeal which will commence from August 6," said Ranjan Gogoi, the Chief Justice of India (CJI), during the hearing of the case on Friday.
A status report submitted by the three-member mediation panel in a sealed cover to the apex court on Thursday was, in effect, a formal intimation of the failure of mediation.
The constitutional bench, headed by CJI Gogoi and comprising Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer will now hear the pleas of the parties.
The development comes just two months after the end of the general election.
In the run-up, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in its vision document, reiterated its stand to explore “all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution" for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
“The SC has taken the right stand on the issue, which needs to be resolved at the earliest in everyone’s interest. Daily hearings could expedite the case as any lingering on the issue only allows more politicking," said Lucknow-based political analyst S.K. Dwivedi .
“The land dispute case will have political ramifications irrespective of whose favour it goes in. With mediation failing, legal recourse is the last option."
The mediation panel was formed in March, following which it had given its first status report last month.
Fourteen appeals have been filed before the Supreme Court against a 2010 Allahabad high court judgment, which said the disputed 22.7 acres in Ayodhya should be equally divided among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The Supreme Court bench was earlier told by Hindu bodies— barring the Nirmohi Akhara—and the Uttar Pradesh government, that they were not in favour of mediation.
Muslim bodies supported the proposal.
On 6 December 1992, the 16th century Babri Masjid was demolished by pro-Hindutva groups.
*Anuja contributed to the story.