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TNN | New Delhi | March 8, 2019:: The Supreme Court on Friday referred the Ayodhya land dispute case for mediation and ordered the panel to start the process within a week and complete it in eight weeks.
The court said that Justice Kalifulla (retd) will be the chairman for court appointed and monitored mediation for a “permanent solution”. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Senior advocate Sriram Panchu will be the other members in the panel. The mediators have the liberty to co-opt more members to the panel. The mediators can also seek further legal assistance as and when required.
The five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer said the panel of mediators will file a progress report of the mediator proceedings within four weeks.
The mediation will be held in Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad, the court said.
While referring the matter for mediation, the bench said there is no legal impediment to send the matter for mediation for arriving at a possible settlement.
The apex court said that the court-monitored mediation proceedings will be held in “utmost confidentiality”. The bench said the mediation proceedings will start within a week from Friday and they will be held in-camera. No media, neither print nor electronic, will report its proceedings, it said.
Following the court’s order, Kalifullah said that the panel will make every effort to resolve the issue “amicably”.
“I understand the Supreme Court has appointed a mediation committee headed by me. I’m yet to receive the copy of the order. I can say if the committee has been constituted we’ll make every effort to resolve the issue amicably,” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Sri Sri too echoed Kalifullah’s remark. “We must all move together towards ending long-standing conflicts happily by maintaining harmony in society,” Sri Sri said.
“Respecting everyone, turning dreams to reality, ending long-standing conflicts happily and maintaining harmony in society – we must all move together towards these goals. #ayodhyamediation,” he tweeted.
On Wednesday, the bench had said that mediated settlement would be the preferred solution + to the over 70-year-old litigation over Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed land in Ayodhya.
The court had added that it was not merely a litigation over a piece of land but a matter relating to hearts, minds and faith of a large swathe of the population.
The Hindu parties have stoutly opposed the move and called it a futile exercise.
Four earlier attempts to find a solution to the dispute through mediation had failed.
The first being in the 1990s when talks between Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Babri Masjid Action Committee broke down at a crucial stage.
The second and most significant effort for a negotiated settlement was made by the Kanchi Shankaracharya in 2003. However, it broke down after his July 1, 2003, letter to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which said, “Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya, all three belong to Hindus and keeping in mind the larger interest of the country and communal harmony, if not today, but at some time or other, these places have to be given to the Hindus. The Muslims have to mentally prepare themselves for this.”
The third attempt fizzled out soon after then CJI J S Khehar in March 2017 suggested that he or another SC judge would be more than willing to become the mediator to bring the warring sides to the negotiating table.
In the later half of 2017, attempts by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Shia Wakf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi too failed to yield any result.
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.