Even if the mediation process fails and the Ayodhya case moves to trial in Supreme Court, the verdict will come in only after general elections have concluded. (Mint)
Even if the mediation process fails and the Ayodhya case moves to trial in Supreme Court, the verdict will come in only after general elections have concluded. (Mint)

Supreme Court rules in favour of mediation in Ayodhya land dispute case

  • Supreme Court forms three-member mediation panel, led by F.M.I. Kalifulla, in the Ayodhya land dispute case
  • The Ayodhya mediation process will begin in seven days and the panel will submit its first progress report in four weeks

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a court-supervised mediation to resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in the next eight weeks. The mediation process will begin within seven days and the three-member panel will submit its first progress report to the Supreme Court in four weeks. The mediation proceedings will take place at Faizabad, which adjoins Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, appointed former Supreme Court judge justice (retd) F.M.I. Kalifulla as the chairperson of the panel of mediators. The other two members are spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.

The move is significant as the apex court has effectively bought itself crucial time. The 17th general election, whose announcement is imminent, is set to conclude by early May. As a result, even if mediation fails and the case moves to trial, the verdict will come in only after the elections have concluded.

“We are of the view that the following panel of learned mediators should be appointed to go into the dispute with liberty to the learned mediators to co-opt other members of the panel, if so required," the Constitution bench said in its order.

Hindu bodies, except the Nirmohi Akhara, have opposed mediation, while Muslim bodies have supported it. The bench concluded the hearing on Wednesday after asking the stakeholders to propose mediators.

To ensure the success of the mediation process, the apex court directed that “utmost confidentiality" be maintained and barred both print and electronic media from reporting the proceedings.

The other members of the constitution bench are Supreme Court judges S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.A. Nazeer.

The legal developments are politically significant, 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".

Almost all political parties on Friday welcomed the order, including the BJP, Congress, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM.

“Politically speaking, what the Supreme Court order does is it keeps the issue alive till elections and voting are on. A number of attempts at mediation have been made in the past. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the proceedings," said S.K. Dwivedi, former head of the political science department at Lucknow University.

“The order is also significant because it points out that the apex court is too not very keen on pronouncing a judgement on it as it is well aware that it is less of a legal issue and more a matter of sentiments and faith," he added.

According to PTI, 14 appeals have been filed in the apex court against a 2010 Allahabad high court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and “Ram Lalla".

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