Ayodhya dispute: SC seeks status report on mediation proceedings within a week

Ayodhya dispute: SC seeks status report on mediation proceedings within a week

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a fresh status report on the ongoing mediation proceedings in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya land dispute case within a week and made it clear that if the vexatious issue was not resolved amicably, it would hear the matter on a day-to-day basis from July 25.

A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, requested former apex court judge Justice (Retd) F M I Kalifulla, chairperson of the three-member mediation panel, to submit the report by July 18.

The bench said after perusing the report, if it comes to a conclusion that an amicable solution through mediation is not possible, then the apex court will commence day-to-day hearing in the matter from July 25.

“We deem it proper to request Justice (Retd) F M I Kalifulla to inform us about the progress of mediation till date and the stage at which the said process is presently at,” the bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, said.

“This report will be submitted by Justice Kalifulla latest by Thursday next, on which date further orders will be passed,” the bench said.

The apex court passed the order while hearing an application filed by the legal heirs of one of the original litigants, Gopal Singh Visharad, seeking a judicial decision on the dispute and annulment of the ongoing mediation process, alleging that nothing much was happening there.

During the arguments, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for deity Ram Lalla Virajman, supported the application and said they had opposed the reference of the matter to a mediation panel earlier as well.

Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a Muslim party, opposed the plea for annulment of the mediation process and said it should be allowed to continue as the fresh plea was a ploy to intimidate them.

However, the bench told Dhavan that since the apex court had constituted the mediation panel, it was entitled to get the latest status report from the committee.

The apex court had, on March 8, referred the matter to the panel of mediators for exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement.

In its March 8 order, the top court had asked the panel to hold in-camera proceedings and conclude the process within eight weeks.

The court had fixed the seat for the mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around seven km from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements, including those relates to the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security and travel, should be arranged by the state government forthwith so that the proceedings could commence immediately.

The bench was earlier told by Hindu bodies, barring the Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government that they were not in favour of the court’s suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies had supported the proposal.

Fourteen 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.

On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.