Ayodhya dispute: SC asks panel to furnish status report within 7 days

Photo: PTI.

The Supreme Court on Thursday (July 11) sought the latest status report with regard to the ongoing mediation proceedings in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya land dispute case within a week.

The bench said after perusing the latest status report, if it felt that the mediation process ought not to be concluded, the main Ayodhya dispute case would be heard by the apex court on a day-to-day basis from July 25.

A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, requested former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla, chairperson of the three-member mediation panel, to submit the report by July 18 and said the court would pass further orders on the same date.

“We deem it proper to request Justice (Retd) F M I Kalifulla to inform us about the progress of mediation till date and the stage at which the said process is presently at,” the bench, also comprising justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, said. “This report will be submitted by Justice Kalifulla latest by Thursday next, on which date further orders will be passed,” the bench said.

The hearing came up before the court after legal heirs of Gopal Singh Visharad, one of the original plaintiffs in the case, said that no progress had been made in the mediation process ordered by the Supreme Court, to settle the matter.

During the arguments, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for deity Ram Lalla Virajman, supported the application and said they had opposed the reference of the matter to a mediation panel earlier as well. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for a Muslim party, opposed the plea for annulment of the mediation process and said it should be allowed to continue as the fresh plea was a ploy to intimidate them. However, the bench told Dhavan that since the apex court had constituted the mediation panel, it was entitled to get the latest status report from the committee.

The apex court on March 8 had formed a three-member committee chaired by former SC judge Kalifulla, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior Madras High Court advocate Sriram Panchu to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement. The top court had asked the panel to hold in-camera proceedings and conclude the process within eight weeks. The court had fixed the seat for the mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around seven kilometres from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements, including those related to the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security and travel, should be arranged by the state government forthwith so that the proceedings could commence immediately.

The bench was earlier told by Hindu bodies, barring the Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government that they were not in favour of the courts suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies had supported the proposal. Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, 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. On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.

The Supreme Court on May 10, had given the mediation panel a deadline of August 15 to find a solution to the dispute.

(With inputs from agencies)