Ayodhya temple dispute: SC reserves order on mediation in case

New Delhi, March 6 : A five-judge 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 even as Hindu parties and the state of Uttar Pradesh opposed the court’s suggestion.

The five-judge Constitution 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.

“Arguments on the issue of reference to mediation are closed. Arguments concluded. Orders reserved,” the court order said.

“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,” Justice Bobde said.

He also made it clear 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, contending that that 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.”

Meanwhile, Dhavan sought to brush aside the argument of “sentiments” of some of the Hindu litigants, saying that there were sentiments in the case of entry of women of a certain age group in Lord Ayyappa’s temple at Sabarimala also.

The court’s order also said, “as to whether writ petitions would be heard by this Bench or by a smaller Bench would follow.”

The writ petitions are by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, Vineet Kumar Maurya and Shishir Chaturvedi.

While Swamy has sought the court’s direction on hiss right to offer prayers at make-shift temple at the disputed site, Chaturvedi has challenged 1993 central law for acquisition of Ayodhya land, including the disputed site.

The court is hearing of 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.

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