The Supreme Court on Friday decided to send the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title dispute for mediation by a three-member team led by a former judge of the court, Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla. The other two members of the panel are spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Chennai-based Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu.
Holding that nothing in the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) posed a “legal impediment to making a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the dispute,” a five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that the proceedings of the mediation should be kept confidential.
“We are also of the view that the mediation proceedings should be conducted with utmost confidentiality so as to ensure its success which can only be safeguarded by directing that the proceedings of mediation and the views expressed therein by any of the parties including the learned Mediators shall be kept confidential and shall not be revealed to any other person,” the five-judge bench said in its order.
Although the top court has not forbidden the reporting of proceedings in print or electronic media, it has opined that the same should not be done. A decision on whether media reporting ought to be banned or not has been left to the three-member mediation panel, the five-judge bench said. The mediation proceedings will be, however, recorded in-camera in accordance with applicable norms, the court said.
Total time of eight weeks has been granted by the top court for completion of the mediation proceedings during which the three-member panel will submit the first progress report within four weeks, the court said.
On February 26, the court had suggested that the land title dispute could be solved by mediation if all the parties were on-board with the idea.
“We have suggested to the parties that during the interregnum a Court appointed and Court monitored mediation with utmost confidentiality could be initiated to bring a permanent solution to the issues raised in the cases. This, we have done keeping in mind that the period of eight weeks that we have allowed to the parties to go through the translations of the oral and documentary evidence could be effectively utilized to try and resolve the issues in the manner indicated above,” the court had said.
Earlier this week on Wednesday, the court had, while reserving its verdict on the issue, said that it, while it was conscious of the gravity of the land dispute and the outcome onthe country, not giving mediation a chance, would be wrong. "It is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible," the ffive-judgebench said.
While most Hindu religious bodies, except the Nirmohi Akhara, have opposed the suggestion to go for mediation, Muslim religious bodies have supported the idea.
The Supreme Court is also hearing a challenge against a 2010 judgement of the Allahabad High Court related to the land title dispute. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.