SC refers AJODHYA Dispute to A Panel For Amicable Settlement

MOST of  the  political parties  have hailed  reference of the decades-old politically sensitive Ajodhya  Ram Janambhoomi  land dispute case by India’s  Supreme  Court  for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla .It comprises  two other member for  exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement within eight weeks. Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, will be the other two members of the panel which will be functional within a week at Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh.  Sri Sri Ravishankar had earlier unsuccessfully tried to resolve the issue with the stakeholders through mediation. The panel will submit the progress report within four weeks. The  apex court’s Bench  headed by Chief Justice  Ranjan Gogoi, native of Assam, said on March  8, 2019 that the mediation proceedings, which would be held “in-camera”, be completed within eight weeks which is the interregnum period granted earlier by the apex court to the parties in the main Ayodhya case to go through translations of oral and documentary evidences. The   five-judge Constitution Bench said it does not find any “legal impediment” to make a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the dispute.”We therefore order accordingly, and having taken note of the names suggested by the parties, we are of the view that the following panel of mediators should be appointed to go into the dispute with liberty to the mediators to co-opt other members of the panel, if so required,” it said. The  SC Bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer was told earlier by Hindu bodies, except for Nirmohi Akhara, and Uttar Pradesh government that they opposed the court’s suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies supported the proposal. However, both sides suggested the panel of names for possible mediators. While opposing the suggestion of mediation, Hindu bodies have argued that earlier attempts of reaching a compromise have failed and provisions of Civil Procedure Code (CPC) require public notice to be issued before the start of process.”Considering the provisions of the CPC…, we do not find any legal impediment in 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 would 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,” the bench said.The top court directed that the mediation proceedings should be conducted with “utmost confidentiality” for ensuring its success and the views expressed by any of the parties including the mediators should be kept confidential and not be revealed to any other person.”We are of the further opinion that while the mediation proceedings are being carried out, there ought not to be any reporting of the said proceedings either in the print or in the electronic media,” the bench said.However, it refrained from passing any specific restrain order at this stage and instead empowered the mediators to pass necessary orders in writing, if so required, to restrain publication of the details of the mediation proceedings.”The Chairman of the mediation panel may also inform the registry of this court any difficulties that the panel may face in carrying out the task assigned to it by the present order and also to inform of any requirement to facilitate the mediation and to conclude the same at the earliest,” the bench said.The top court fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said that the adequate arrangements including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel should be forthwith arranged by the state government so that proceedings could commence immediately. It also directed that the mediation proceedings be held in-camera as per the norms applicable to conduct the mediation proceedings.”The panel of mediators is requested to ensure completion of the process during the period of the interregnum indicated above and send a report of the progress of the mediation to this Court within four weeks of the commencement of the process,” it said. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment in four civil suits ordering 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 as The Government is under pressure from the RSS, the custodian of Hindu beliefs, seers and other Hindu organizations to go ahead with construction of a befitting temple at the place of birth of Lord Rama.

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