5-judge Constitution Bench of SC to decide whether to order mediation in Ayodhya dispute case
5-judge Constitution Bench of SC to decide whether to order mediation in Ayodhya dispute case

The order is likely to be passed by Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer

NEW DELHI: A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, will decide on Wednesday if the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute can be adjudicated through mediation.

The five-judge Constitution Bench is expected to take a call on whether or not it would invoke Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure to attempt a court-monitored mediation in the decades-old Babri Masjid–Ram Janmabhoomi title suit.

The Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer had earlier indicated its desire for attempting mediation, under the supervision of the Supreme Court, to resolve the land dispute between the warring claimants.

On February 26, the bench had said that it would pass an order, on March 5, on whether or not a court-monitored mediation can be directed in the case.

The matter was then listed for March 6.

Notably, the suggestion for mediation was coined by Justice Bobde, during the hearing when both the Hindu and the Muslim sides were sparring over the veracity of documents related to the case which were translated by the Uttar Pradesh government and filed with the apex court registry.

“We are considering it (mediation) very seriously. You all (parties) have used the word that this matter is not adversarial. We would like to give a chance to mediation even if there is one per cent chance,” the bench had said.

It had asked the contesting parties to explore the possibility of amicably settling the decades-old dispute through mediation, saying it may help in “healing relations”.

“Even if there is “one percent chance” of settling the dispute amicably, the parties should go for mediation”, the five-judge had observed.

Furthermore, it noted, “We would like to know your (both parties) views on it as we do not want any third party to make a comment to jeopardise the entire process.”

While some of the Muslim parties agreed to the court’s suggestion on mediation, some Hindu bodies including the Ram Lalla Virajman opposed it, saying several such attempts have failed in the past. “Do you seriously think that the entire dispute for so many years is for the property? We can only decide property rights but we are considering the possibility of healing relations,” the 5-judge bench stated.

The bench, which posted the main matter for hearing after eight weeks and directed its registry to provide translated copies of documents to the parties within six weeks to check their veracity, said it wanted to explore the possibility of mediation to utilise the time till the next date of hearing.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya is partitioned equally among the three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

The five-judge bench was re-constituted on January 25 as Justice UU Lalit, who was a member of the earlier bench, had recused himself from hearing the matter. When the new bench was constituted, Justice NV Ramana was excluded from the re-constituted bench.

Justices Bhushan and Nazeer, who were included in the newly constituted bench, were part of an earlier bench headed by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra (now retired) which had heard the Ayodhya land dispute matter.

The three-judge bench had on September 27, 2018, refused to refer to a five-judge constitution bench the issue related to reconsideration of the observation in the apex court’s 1994 judgment that a mosque was not integral to Islam.