Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 11
Four months after referring the Ayodhya land dispute to a mediation panel headed by Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, the Supreme Court said on Thursday it would begin day-to-day hearings of cross-appeals in the case from July 25 if mediation did not break the ongoing deadlock.
“We make it clear that if this Court comes to a conclusion that, having regard to the report of Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, the mediation proceedings should be ordered to be concluded, the court will do so and order for commencement of the hearing of the appeals before it, tentatively, on and from 25th July, 2019, which hearings, if required, will be conducted on day-to-day basis,” said a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The Bench—which also included Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice SA Nazeer—asked the mediation panel to submit a fresh status report on the ongoing mediation proceedings by July 18 when it intended to pass further orders.
“We deem it proper to request Justice (Retd) FMI Kalifulla to inform us about the progress of mediation till date and the stage at which the said process is presently at,” it said.
Hindus believe that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya thousands of years ago. During Mughal emperor Babur’s rule, a mosque was constructed at the place in 1528 after destroying the temples existing there.
The dispute over 2.7 acres has been on since 1961 when the Sunni Wakf Board took the matter to court.
On December 6, 1992, Hindu activists tore down the disputed structure. The Allahabad High Court had on September 30, 2010 ordered dividing the disputed land at Ayodhya equally between Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhada and Sunni Wakf Board. The order has been challenged before the Supreme Court, which is currently hearing 14 cross-appeals.
The Bench took note of the fact that mediation was suggested by it during the period which was otherwise required to complete translation of documents to make the cross-appeals ready for hearing and an application by Gopal Singh Visharad—one of the parties to the original suit—who demanded mediation to be concluded and hearing resumed at the earliest.
“No progress is made in the mediation even after the first round,” senior counsel PS Narasimha, representing Visharad, had told the court on July 9, demanding listing of the matter for early hearing.
The Bench said on February 26 the parties were given eight weeks to enable them to verify the accuracy or correctness of the translations of documents/evidence and during the interregnum, it wanted to attempt an amicable solution of the issues through mediation.
On March 8, it had referred the dispute to mediation and appointed former top court judge Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Chennai-based advocate Shriram Panchu as mediators, asking them to hold in-camera proceedings and complete the process in eight weeks. In May, it extended till August 15 the time for the panel to complete mediation, saying the mediators were “optimistic” about an amicable solution.
On behalf of Ram Lalla (the deity), senior advocate Ranjit Kumar supported the Visharad’s plea even as senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing a Muslim party, opposed scrapping the mediation process, terming it a ploy to intimidate them.
Maintaining that it was probably very difficult to settle a dispute of this nature through mediation, senior counsel KS Parasaran told the Bench on behalf of Visharad that it would be better if the top court decided it.But Dhavan objected to adverse comments aimed at the mediation panel. “It is simply not fair. They (applicant) do not ask for a recall of the order of May 10. They are simply saying that scrap the mediation committee,” he said, adding: “Serious mediation is taking place there”.
Hindu bodies, except Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government were not in favour of mediation while Muslim bodies had supported it.