Day-to-day Ayodhya hearings from Aug 6
The Supreme Court on Friday ordered day-to-day hearings on the contentious Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute starting on August 6, after an attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement ended in failure. The three-member mediation panel filed its final report in the court on Thursday, saying rival litigants had been unable to reach an amicable settlement.
Both Hindu and Muslim organisations welcomed the imminent start of the hearings. A lawyer for the Muslim litigants said the court order was on expected lines. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said it hoped the legal proceedings would remove barriers impeding the construction of a temple to the Lord Ram on the disputed site in Ayodhya,
A five-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said in its ruling that it had studied the report submitted by former Supreme Court justice FMI Kalifulla, who headed the mediation panel.
“The mediation proceedings have not resulted in any final settlement. We, therefore, have to proceed with the hearing of the cases/appeals, which will commence on and from 6.8.2019 (Tuesday). The hearing will be on day to-day basis until the arguments are concluded.” said the bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.
The failure of the four-and-half-month-long mediation process means the start of judicial proceedings, which were kept on hold by the apex court since March in an attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement. The title suit has been pending in the Supreme Court since 2010 after the Allahabad high court ruled that the disputed 2.77-acre site in Ayodhya be divided into three equal portions to be allotted to the Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination.
Hindus claim that the disputed site marks the birthplace of their warrior-god Ram and that the 16th century Babri mosque that stood there had been built on the ruins of a temple razed by Mughal invaders. The mosque was demolished on December 6,1992, by activists of Hindu organisations that had been campaigning for the construction of a Ram temple on the site.
On August 6, the court will begin hearings on 14 appeals -- including suits filed by Ram Lalla Virajman, representing the infant god Ram, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Wakf board -- and four petitions filed by other Hindu and Muslim parties.
The mediation panel, led by Kalifulla and comprising senior advocate Sriram Panchu and spiritual guru Ravi Shankar, was appointed by the top court on March 8 to explore mediation in an attempt to “heal relationships” between the communities. The Uttar Pradesh government and most Hindu parties had opposed the initiative, which was welcomed by the Muslim side.
The panel was initially given 8 weeks to explore the possibility of mediated settlement, but on May 10, after the panel submitted an interim report to the court, the apex court had granted an extension of three months, until August 15, to the panel.
Last month, an application was filed by a plaintiff from the Hindu side for an early hearing on the land dispute case, claiming the mediation proceedings had made no headway. And the date for filing of the final report by the panel was advanced from August 15 to August 1.
The court said the hearings will begin with the Hindu parties, Ram Lalla Virajman and Nirmohi Akhara, making their presentations first. This was objected to by the Muslim parties, which suggested that the suit filed by the Sunni Wakf Board and other Muslim litigants be heard first because it got to the root of the dispute and was the lead suit in the high court.
CJI Gogoi dismissed the suggestion and said the parties should make heir arguments during the course of the hearings.
”The court order is on expected lines. It was made clear in the beginning that in case mediation failed the final hearing will begin and that is what the court has ordered today,” said advocate MR Shamshad, appearing for the Muslim parties.
RSS welcomed the Supreme Court to conduct daily hearings. “We have confidence that the controversial dispute will be resolved in a fixed period of time and the legal barriers in the construction of the temple will be removed and the work of constructing a grand temple will start soon,” RSS general secretary Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi said.