By Sumit Saxena
New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel in the Ayodhya title dispute case is back in the reckoning, despite it failing to evolve a consensus among the various stakeholders earlier. The court has ruled that the mediation can continue till the arguments are concluded on October 18.
The three-member panel, tasked to resolve the vexed issue amicably, has been through crests and troughs since its appointment on March 8.
The mediators earlier tried to work out a resolution over nine weeks before it was disbanded and the Supreme Court commenced hearing on the dispute on August 6.
The Supreme Court had in March appointed the panel headed by former apex court judge F.M.I. Kalifulla and consisting of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, with the hope that it would be able to evolve a consensus on resolution of the 70-year-old dispute.
The apex court had fixed the seat for the mediation process in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, which is approximately 7 km from Ayodhya.
In May, the top court extended the time for the mediation committee till August 15.
The court said the members of the committee were not experiencing any difficulty in the mediation process even though the Hindu parties contended that it was not moving in the positive direction and told the court it is destined to fail.
On this argument, the court had observed that the chairman of the committee indicated progress in mediation so far, and sought extension to complete the task
The court had refused to divulge the details on the mediation. “We will not tell you the progress made, that is confidential,” replied the court to a counsel’s query regarding the mediation. The court’s observation had come on the mediation report dated May 7.
In July, a plea was made by representative of the first plaintiff in the case, Gopal Singh Visharad, who implored upon the apex court to begin hearing on the case instead of waiting for mediation.
A Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Ranjan Gogoi, asked for the progress report by July 18 to assess the status of the mediation and to look into the possibility of an amicable resolution through this process of engagement of parties.
The court had also observed that in case the process of mediation is over by then, the court will begin hearing on the matter based on merit from July 25.
The court reckoned the idea of day-to-day hearing to fast track the matter in case of adverse report in mediation.
On August 2, the apex court announced that the mediation has failed, and it will begin day-to-day hearing in the matter on August 6.
“We have received the report submitted by Justice Kalifulla. We have perused it. Mediation proceedings have not resulted in any kind of final settlement, as a result we have to proceed with the hearing of the appeal which will commence from August 6,” the court had said.
Today, the five-judge Constitution bench, headed by the Chief Justice, said it has received a letter from Kalifulla, saying some parties have written to him making an appeal to resume the mediation process and it can go along with daily hearing of the matter in the apex court.
The top court agreed that if parties are willing to continue mediation, they can do so, and observed that the hearing on the matter has reached an advanced stage. Therefore, the mediation can continue till the arguments are concluded on October 18.
The matter reached the Supreme Court after 14 appeals were filed against the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict which partitioned the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya equally among the three parties — Ram Lalla, the Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])