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Supreme Court reserves order on Ayodhya title case for "mediation"

The SC, stating "We intend to pass the order soon," asked the contesting parties to suggest names of the mediators in case the top court decides in favour of mediation.

Saima Siddiqui

Saima SiddiquiBy Saima Siddiqui

Published on 6 March 2019 6:29 AM GMT

Supreme Court reserves order on Ayodhya title case for mediation
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New Delhi: A five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved its order on the decades old, Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, on Wednesday, with an aspiration to settle down the case through "mediation".

The SC, stating "We intend to pass the order soon," asked the contesting parties to suggest names of the mediators in case the top court decides in favour of mediation.

Highlights of the hearing

-The top court asked the parties to suggest names of the mediators in case SC decides in favour of mediation. "We intend to pass the order soon," it says.

-The Uttar Pradesh government opposes to mediation in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title case, says it is not advisable "in the given circumstances".

-"The issue of temple construction is non-negotiable. It is an issue of faith for the Hindus. We are even willing to crowd fund for construction of a mosque somewhere else. Mediation won't serve any purpose," argues CS Vaidyanathan, one of the key litigants in the case, Ram Lala Virajman.

-Advocate Rajeev Dhavan,who is appearing for the group of Muslim petitioners in the case, says, "Muslim petitioners are agreeable to mediation and any compromise or settlement will bind parties." He then asks the bench to frame terms for mediation. On the concern expressed by Justice Chandrachud about impact of mediation on millions of people, Dhavan cited the case of Sabarimala temple in Kerala and says, "religious sentiments were involved in that case too but SC still passed order."

-It is was observed that Justices Chandrachud and Bobde were clearly not on the different page over mediation. When Justice Chandrachud says adjudication is a legally binding process but how do we bind people through mediation. To this, Justice Bobde replies, how can you bind parties in a representative suit even by legal adjudication. "If one (adjudication) is good in a representative suit like this, so will be the other (mediation)," adds the judge.

-How can mediation be ordered even without consent of all the parties, argues the Muslim side, to which Justice Chandrachud replies, "It is a dispute involving two communities. How do we bind millions of people by way of mediation. It won't be that simple." He adds that the confidentiality of the process will be very important. "Desirability of resolution through peaceful talks is an ideal situation. But how do we go about it is the real question," says Justice Chandrachud

-Continuing the proceedings, Justice SA Bobde says, "We have no control over what happened in the past, who invaded, who was the king, temple or mosque. We know about the present dispute. We are concerned only about resolving the dispute. Don't think you have more faith than us." He adds the bench understands the gravity of the Ayodhya land dispute and its impact on body polity while deciding to refer it for mediation

-The Muslim side argued, how mediation can be ordered even without consent of all the parties, to which Justice Chandrachud replies, "It is a dispute involving two communities. How do we bind millions of people by way of mediation. It won't be that simple." He also added that the confidentiality of the process will be very important. "Desirability of resolution through peaceful talks is an ideal situation. But how do we go about it is the real question."

-"We have no control over what happened in the past, who invaded, who was the king, temple or mosque. We know about the present dispute. We are concerned only about resolving the dispute. Don't think you have more faith than us.": says Justice SA Bobde

-One of the Hindu petitioners claimed public notice will be required to be issued before ordering for mediation. The SC observes it is not fair to pre-judge the issue and say mediation will be a failure even before it begins. "This is a dispute about sentiments, about faith": says Justice Bobde

-In the first week of February, a petition was filed in the apex court challenging the constitutional validity of 1993 Central law on land acquisition in Ayodhya near the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site. The plea contended that Parliament has no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to the state. The plea, filed by a group of lawyers claiming to be devotees of Ram Lalla, submitted that state legislature has the exclusive power to make provisions relating to the management of affairs of religious institutions inside its territory. The report was submitted in pursuance to the apex court's earlier direction after which the Secretary General had constituted two committees for visiting the room where the records were kept.

-While some of the Muslim parties agreed to the court's suggestion on mediation, some Hindu bodies including the Ram Lalla Virajman opposed it, saying several such attempts have failed in the past.

-The Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had asked the contesting parties to explore the possibility of amicably settling the decades old dispute through mediation, saying it may help in "healing relations". Even if there is "one per cent chance" of settling the dispute amicably, the parties should go for mediation, the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, had observed.

-The top court on February 26 had said it would pass an order on March 6 on whether to refer the matter to a court-appointed mediator.

The court will also hear petitions seeking a review of its judgment giving a clean chit to the Narendra Modi- led central government on the Rafale fighter jets deal.

The top court, on December 14, 2018, had dismissed four petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the purchase of the jet fighters, saying the decision-making process was not in doubt and that it cannot go into the question of pricing and the choice of offset Indian partner by Dassault. The plea for recall of the judgment was filed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan among others.

Saima Siddiqui

Saima Siddiqui

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