Supreme Court sets Ayodhya date
The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the three-member mediation panel on the Ayodhya dispute to hand in a progress report by July 18, indicating that if the talks have failed, it might from July 25 take up day-to-day hearing of the petitions.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi passed the order after hearing brief arguments, during which the Muslim claimants wanted the mediation to continue while the Hindu groups sought a judicial resolution, underlining the case was 70 years old.
The court was dealing with an application from G.S. Visharad, one of the plaintiffs to the original suit, who argued that the hearings should be taken up on the judicial side since the mediation had so far failed to produce results.
Senior advocate K. Parasaran, appearing for Visharad, suggested that, if necessary, both the mediation and the hearing on the judicial side could go on simultaneously.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a group of Muslim claimants, opposed the suggestion arguing the mediation efforts could not be brought to an end just on an application from one of the plaintiffs. “Parties who are not happy cannot come and say, ‘Scrap it (the mediation)’,” he said.
On March 8, the five-judge bench — which includes Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer — had referred the land dispute for mediation.
It had appointed a former apex court judge, Justice Ibrahim Kalifulla, as head of the mediation panel, whose other members are spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate and expert mediator Sriram Panchu.
On May 10, the team of mediators had expressed “optimism” about a negotiated settlement, following which it was asked to submit a status report by August 15. This was before Visharad moved his application.
“Taking into account the earlier orders passed by this court; the fact that mediation was suggested by this court during the period of time which was otherwise required to make cases/appeals ready for hearing… we deem it proper to request Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla to inform this court (about) the progress of mediation till date and the stage which the said process is presently at,” the court said on Thursday.
“It will be convenient to have the said report latest by 18th July, 2019, on which date further orders will be passed by this court. We also make it clear that if this court comes to a conclusion that, having regard to the report of Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla, the mediation proceedings should be ordered to be concluded, the court will do so and order for commencement of the hearing of the appeals before it, tentatively, on and from 25th July, 2019, which hearings, if required, will be conducted on day-to-day basis. Registry to list these cases, for appropriate orders on 18th July, 2019, at 10:30 am.”
In the batch of petitions pending before the apex court, both Hindu and Muslim groups have challenged a 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment that trisected the disputed plot equally and distributed the shares among two Hindu claimants and a Muslim group.