New Delhi: In a significant move, two days after reserving its order, the apex court on Friday referred the the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation. The move is crucial as the issue is politically significant and the proceedings of the mediation will come at a time when general elections are due.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by chief justice Ranjan Gogoi appointed former Supreme Court judge, Justice (retd) F.M.I. Kallifulla as the chairperson of the panel of mediators. Other members include spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.
The proceedings of the mediation will take place at Faizabad, the neighbouring city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, and is expected to begin from next Friday. To keep a tab on the progress, the panel of mediators will file a progress report of the proceedings within four weeks and the process should be completed within eight weeks.
There is flexibility in terms of the panel of mediators as the bench has directed it can co-opt more members if needed. Other members in the Constitution Bench are justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A. Nazeer.
The developments assume significance since the case is a key political issue, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its 2014 manifesto promised to “explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya."
To ensure success of the mediation, the SC has directed that "utmost confidentiality" should be maintained and both print and electronic media have been barred from reporting the proceedings.
According to a news report by PTI, 14 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.
With PTI inputs