The bench then extended the time till August 15 for completing the process of mediation.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday noted that there was some progress in the mediation process for an out-of-court settlement and granted the mediation panel headed by Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla (Retd) time till August 15 to complete the negotiations and submit a report.
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, heading the five-judge Constitution Bench, told the counsel for the parties: “The mediation is on and the chairperson seeks an extension until August 15 to arrive at an amicable and complete solution, which we are inclined to grant. But we would like the progress (between the parties) to remain confidential for now.”
While senior counsel Rajeev Dhawan, representing the Sunni waqf board, expressed full support for all attempts of mediation, senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, representing the Ram Lalla, insisted that the committee be granted time only till the end of June. The CJI said: “When they are seeking time till August, how can we do that? We don’t want to short-circuit the process.” The bench then extended the time till August 15 for completing the process of mediation.
On March 8. the Constitution Bench, which included Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer, appointed a mediation panel that included spiritual guru and Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and mediation expert advocate Sriram Panchu to explore the possibility of arriving at a permanent and lasting solution. The panel was granted eight weeks to mediate the highly-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case to facilitate an out-of-court settlement on the over seven-decade-old row. The panel held “in-camera” proceedings and restrained the media from printing or telecasting the mediation proceedings.
The bench is hearing a batch of 13 appeals against an Allahabad high court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit relating to the disputed site in Ayodhya, granting two-thirds of the land to Hindus and one-third to Muslims, out of the total 2.77 acres. While Hindus claimed the one-third land granted to Muslims should be restored to them, the Muslims claimed that the two-thirds land given to Hindus should be transferred to them. The court said earlier it was resorting to mediation notwithstanding the lack of consensus between the parties regarding for mediation. It said considering the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, “we do not find any legal impediment to making a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the dispute(s) arising out of the appeals. Whether the said provisions of the CPC will apply in the event parties arrive at a settlement/compromise in the mediation proceedings is a matter left open to be decided at the appropriate stage.”
On behalf of Hindus, it was argued that having accepted that the disputed site was the birthplace of Lord Ram, there was no reason why one-third of the land was to be given to Muslims for construction of a mosque. They wanted the entire area granted to Hindus to facilitate construction of a Ram Mandir. The appeal on behalf of Muslims raised several questions, including whether myth, belief or faith could be substituted by history for the purposes of the application of law for the time being in force.