The Supreme Court has for the first time referred the 22-year-old border dispute case between Assam and Nagaland for mediation and said “adjudication cannot resolve such differences that have become a routine affair”.
Several disputes, including border rows and water sharing, among states are pending before the apex court. With this move, the court hopes to sort out such cases. Till now, the mediation process was used to solve matrimonial disputes.
Asking the two states to sit across the table, a bench comprising Justices Markandeya Katju and T.S. Thakur appointed senior advocate Sriram Panchoo from Chennai and Niranjan Bhat from Gujarat to mediate between them. The mediators and respective chief secretaries will meet in Delhi at a place fixed by the Union home ministry on September 18.
There will be three mediation sittings and mediators can select experts for assistance. A home ministry representative will also be present.
“The second meeting should be held within four weeks of the first one,” the bench said, asking the mediators to fix the date. Similarly, it added, the third meeting should take place within four weeks of the second.
The mediators have been directed to submit a report to the Supreme Court by December 6 and the court will hold a hearing a week later.
As the court initiated the “track-II” process to “amicably settle” the border row, it permitted continuation of an SC-appointed local commission to demarcate the border.
“It is not possible to adjudicate such issues. This matter is pending since 1988 and would go on for the next 25 years when you and I won’t be around,” the bench said.
Nagaland has opposed the appointment of former Supreme Court judge Justice Tarun Chatterjee to the commission as he was part of the bench that in 2004 ordered the constitution of the commission.