Observing a sense of suspicion existing among contesting parties, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its order on sending the contentious Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya title dispute case for mediation. The Hindu parties and the state of Uttar Pradesh had opposed the five-judge Bench’s suggestion of “mediation”.
The court is hearing a batch of cross petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict trifurcating the disputed site and giving one party each to the Nirmohi Akhada, Ram Lalla and the Sunni Waqf Board.
On Wednesday, the Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer reserved the order, as some of the Hindu parties and Uttar Pradesh sounded sceptical about the outcome of the mediation. In its order the Bench said: “Arguments on the issue of reference to mediation are closed. Arguments concluded. Orders reserved.”
“It is about mind, hear and healing the relationship. We have read history and know history. We have no control over what had happened in the past… Babar invading, whether there was a mosque or temple. We are only concerned with resolving the dispute,” a leading news agency quoted Justice Bobde as saying while clarifying that the court was conscious of the impact of the issue on the body polity.
The court also indicated that the mediation proceedings would not be open to media reporting.
“It should not be reported, once the mediation process is on”, Justice Bobde said with senior counsel Rajeev Dhavan said, “You can say that the mediation process would be confidential.”
Joining the sceptics on the outcome of the mediation, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, said, “It (mediation) will not be advisable and prudent to take this path.”
Dhavan, however, opposed the Solicitor General appearing for Uttar Pradesh. He contended it had already been made clear that the state government was not a party to the dispute and the Centre was just the custodian of disputed and the undisputed acquired land at Ayodhya.
Senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, who appeared for Ram Lalla, opposed the mediation, telling the court that the birth place of Lord Ram was a matter of faith and belief and they cannot take a contrary view in the mediation.
As some of the parties belonging to Hindu side, but not all, sounded sceptical about the outcome of the mediation and the acceptance of its outcome by the people other than the parties to the dispute, Justice Bobde said, “When we are ordering mediation, the outcome is not on our mind.”
However, Justice Chandrachud had a different take on the non-binding nature of the mediation as opposed to adjudication which is binding.
Making it clear that the “desirability of negotiated process can’t be underscored”, he asked, “If mediation takes place, how would we bind them.”