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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

‘Give mediation a chance’: Supreme Court says on Ayodhya case

Supreme Court said even if there is a 1% chance of an amicable resolution of the issue, it should be given a chance.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2019 13:21 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
New Delhi
A Supreme Court Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi took up the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
A Supreme Court Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi took up the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.(REUTERS)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested mediation as a way to resolve the politically-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, saying even if there is a 1% chance of an amicable resolution of the issue, it should be given a chance.

The case is being heard by a Constitution bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and justice SA Bobde, justice DY Chandrachud, justice Ashok Bhushan and justice Abdul Nazeer.

“We are aware that at no point of time has the court directed meditation and that is something which we are considering seriously. It does not involve anybody’s private property and yet has become so contentious. It’s about the public right to worship. We would like to give one chance,” Justice Bobde said.

“It shall be confidential. We do not want any their party making comments to jeopardise it,” he added.

Both sides said that mediation was attempted in the past.

Justice Bobde, however, said, “You seriously think the entire dispute for so many years is about a property. We are considering the possibility of healing relationships. We can decide on a property suit.”

The representative of the Muslim petitioners agree to mediation but those from the Hindu side object to it. The lawyer representing Ram Lalla, the child deity, also objected, saying they want quick disposal of the matter

Earlier, during the hearing, CJI Gogoi handed over the copies of reports filed by secretary general signed by four registrars on the status of documents, translations and records in the case. He said the documents in English, Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit and Gurmukhi run into more than 38,000 pages.

CJI Gogoi said the court can fix a schedule for hearing if the parties agree that translations, provided by Uttar Pradesh, that are available are acceptable to them.

Rajeev Dhawan, representing the Muslim petitioners, said he needs time to examine the translation and that they need to do so. Dushyant Dave said on behalf of other Muslim parties that the translations were exchanged but the two parties never sat together to verify them.

CS Vaidyanathan, who is representing Ram Lalla, said the exercise was done and that both the parties sat and examined the translations.

The five-judge bench was reconstituted after justice UU Lalit, on January 10, recused himself from hearing the matter after it was pointed out to him that he has in the past appeared in a contempt case related to the title suit. Justice NV Ramana was also replaced on the bench.

Justice Bhushan and justice Nazeer, who came in instead of justice Lalit and justice Ramana, were part of a bench headed by then CJI Dipak Misra that last year declined to refer an old judgment about whether a mosque is integral to Islam or not, to a larger bench.

On January 27, the Supreme Court cancelled a scheduled January 29 hearing because justice Bobde was not available that day.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the top court against a 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally between three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhada and Ram Lalla, the child deity.

The new bench is expected to fix a date to begin the hearings and prepare a schedule for them.

The bench is also expected to hear a fresh petition filed by residents of Ayodhya, who have challenged the 1993 law by which the Centre acquired the 67.7 acres of land around the disputed site. The petition, filed by seven individuals, including two Lucknow-based lawyers claiming to be devotees of Ram Lalla, contends that Parliament had no legislative competence to acquire land belonging to a state.

The court will also hear a fresh application by the Union of India seeking the court’s nod to return the undisputed area, except the 0.313-acre plot where the demolished mosque stood until it was demolished by “kar sevaks” on December 6, 1992, to its rightful owners. According to the Centre, 42 acres of the acquired non-disputed land belonged to Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN).

It has sought a modification of court’s 2003 order that while upholding the acquisition law had ordered status quo at the site.

The bench has already brought on record the magnitude of the case. CJI Gogoi has mentioned that 120 issues have been framed in the case and a total of 88 witnesses had been examined by subordinate courts.

The deposition of witnesses runs into 13,886 pages and 257 documents have been exhibited; and, as the judgement runs into 4,304 pages, the original records of the case are stored in 15 sealed trunks.