The Supreme Court has decided to begin day-to-day hearing to settle ownership of the 2.77-acre Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land in Ayodhya from July 25 if the mediation committee gives the word that negotiations with Hindu and Muslim parties are not working. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazir requested panel chairman, former SC judge F M I Kalifulla, to submit a report by July 18 detailing the “progress of mediation till date and the stage at which the said process is presently at (sic)”.
“We also make it clear that if this court comes to a conclusion (on July 18) that, having regard to the report of Justice Kalifulla, the mediation proceedings should be ordered to be concluded, the court will do so and order commencement of the hearing of appeals before it, tentatively on and from July 25. Hearings, if required, will be conducted on day-to-day basis,” the CJI-led bench said in its order.
The order came after Hindu parties joined hands to demand an end to the mediation process which has been favoured by the Muslim side. Both Hindu and Muslim parties to the dispute have challenged in the apex court the September 30, 2010 judgment of Allahabad high court which had divided the 2.77-acre disputed land into three equal parts and given ownership of one part each to Ram Lalla (idol), Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni waqf board.
Amid the heat of arguments, the SC on March 8 brushed aside vehement opposition from Hindu parties and suo motu set up a three-member panel comprising Justice Kalifulla, renowned mediator and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar to explore the possibility of a negotiated settlement. While the Sunni waqf board has consistently supported negotiations, the Nirmohi Akhara broke ranks with Hindu parties and lent its support for mediation.
However, four months later, the Akhara made a U-turn and criticised the procedure adopted by the SC appointed panel. “There should be a joint meeting of parties. When mediators are not attempting any meeting of the parties to the dispute, what negotiated settlement can take place?”