The Supreme Court’s recent suggestion for an out-of-court settlement of 66 years old Ram Janambhoomi dispute may or may not fructify, but a land dispute, as old as Ram Janambhoomi, between two brothers in Ranchi was amicably resolved outside the court.
The apex court suggestion for an amicable settlement of the contentious Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya through negotiation or mediation between the parties concerned evoked mixed response with some raising doubts that it would not work.
But, in Ranchi a land dispute of 1951 was resolved in less than a year when the court referred the matter for mediation.
It all started when one Sukhram Mahto in 1951 had filed a property suit in Ranchi civil court seeking partition of his father’s 20.14 acres of land at village Rollabera under Tamar block, 55 km from state capital. Sukhram’s brother Sobha Mahto, however, had contested the case on the ground that his brother was not a legitimate son of his father.
He argued that his father had a living relationship with Sukhram’s mother and no marriage was solemnized between them. “His brother was an illegitimate son of his father and therefore, he was not entitled for any share in the ancestral property,” Sobha had claimed.
Shukhram, however, in want of any evidence to prove that the marriage between his father and mother was ever solemnized, contended that even if he was an illegitimate son of his father he was entitled for one-fourth of the property as per the Hindu law.
The court, in its judgment of December 14, 1951, decided in favour of Sukhram holding him entitled for the one-fourth share of the property.
Defendant Sobha, however, filed an appeal which was decided in 1955 through which the court’s earlier order was affirmed.
Soon after this, both the brothers had died and their next generation didn’t approach the court for preparation of a final decree for demarcation of the property between the legal heirs.
The issue was rekindled after a gap of 50 years in 2005 when late Sukhram’s son Ravi Mahto had approached the court for preparation of a final decree. But, this time more complexity cropped up.
The seven defendants, who were sons and daughters of late Sobha Mahto, opposed Ravi’s claim saying that Ravi was a sham person as their deceased uncle and aunt (Ravi’s mother and father) had only one daughter Sabi Devi, who too died issueless. Therefore, entire lineage of late Sukhram Mahto got extinct and the one-fourth share of their uncle’s property automatically got vested with them.
The court then initiated an inquiry to find out the veracity of Ravi’s claim. Many witnesses were examined. In between, some of the contesting parties (defendants) had died delaying the judicial process from 2005-2016.
It was the court of additional judicial commissioner NK Vishwakarma which on June 29, 2016 had referred the matter for mediation. Both the plaintiff and defendants reached to a compromise following positive discussions with the help of an expert mediator.
The plaintiff Ravi Mahto had agreed to permanently withdraw his claim over the one-fourth share of the property for which the defendants would pay him Rs 7 lakh in six installments. After payments were made, the matter was finally settled in Lok Adalat on April 8, 2017.
Ranchi principal judicial commissioner Navneet Kumar said, “Mediation is an effective tool of alternative dispute redressal system through which long pending cases are resolved in quick time entailing less expenses. The instant property dispute is a perfect example in this regard”.
“I have planned to permanently settle to a new place therefore I decided to give up my claim over the land,” said Ravi Mahto.