SC on Ayodhya: Give & take a bit
The Supreme Court today recommended an out-of-court settlement of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya, with Chief Justice J.S. Khehar arguing that "sensitive issues involving faith" are best resolved through talks and offering to mediate the talks himself.
- Published 22.03.17
New Delhi, March 21: The Supreme Court today recommended an out-of-court settlement of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya, with Chief Justice J.S. Khehar arguing that "sensitive issues involving faith" are best resolved through talks and offering to mediate the talks himself.
"These are not issues which can be sorted out in a huff. Why don't you sit and sort it out? Sit across: give a bit here, take a bit there," he suggested.
On September 30, 2010, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court had directed equal division of the disputed 2.77 acres among the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and representatives of Ram Lalla Virajman (Lord Ram treated as a legal person).
A large number of petitions had challenged the verdict in the apex court, which had in May 2011 stayed the high court order, calling it "strange". Since then, no hearing has taken place.
This morning, during the freewheeling "mentioning time" when litigants are allowed to raise issues relating to listings or pending cases, BJP politician Subramanian Swamy sought urgent hearing of the Ayodhya appeals. He cited the "great public interest" and the six-year delay.
But Justice Khehar said: "You must understand that these are sensitive issues involving faith which must be sorted out through talks. If you want, we'll hear this soon after the summer vacation (which will end on June 30) as soon as we have three new judges. But why don't you sit across a table and sort it out?"
Swamy said he had spoken to all the parties but without success, so a judicial decision alone could settle the matter.
But Justice Khehar suggested he try again. "If you want any sitting judge of this court to sit between your talks, we can give you one. You can have me," he said.
"Speak to them again. Any sitting judge of your choice, we will give you."
Swamy then sought a formal order directing all the parties to sit together. "The issue can be sorted out if the Muslims agree to build a mosque across the Sarayu river," he said.
Eventually, after consulting Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul - the other judges on the bench - Justice Khehar asked Swamy to mention the matter again on March 31 so the court could pass appropriate orders.
Muslim organisations, including the Babri Masjid Action Committee, which is a party to the case, were sceptical about the possibility of an out-of-court settlement in the light of past failures.
"We are ready with the Chief Justice mediating, we trust him. We are also ready if he nominates a team for hearing the matter. But an out-of-court settlement is not possible. If the Supreme Court passes an order in this regard, we will look into it," PTI quoted Zafaryab Jilani, convener of the committee, as saying.
The CPM said the Supreme Court should decide the dispute, and that "prolonging the issue will only lead to communalisation and division in society".
The BJP welcomed the apex court suggestion and said the aggrieved parties should keep in mind the "sensitivity" of the issue during the discussions.
A cautious Congress said there should either be a "consensus-based" solution, which will go a long way in ensuring lasting peace and goodwill, or the apex court should decide the case on merit.
On February 26 last year, the court had allowed Swamy to intervene in the case with a plea seeking the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site, where the Babri Masjid stood before its demolition on December 6, 1992.
His petition claimed that under practices prevalent in Islamic countries, a mosque can be shifted for a public purpose but a temple, once built, cannot be touched.