Supreme Court extends Ayodhya mediation till Aug. 15
Panel claims ‘progress’ in talks; next meeting with stakeholders to be held in June
A five-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, on Friday gave the Supreme Court-appointed mediation committee time till August 15 to continue with its efforts to resolve the prolonged and strife-ridden Ayodhya title dispute.
“We do not want to short-circuit the mediation process. We will extend the time in order to enable the committee to complete the task assigned to it,” Chief Justice Gogoi addressed the parties in the courtroom.
The committee filed an interim report, dated May 7, with the Constitution Bench.
Sources said the panel conveyed that “progress” was being made in the talks, and it was meeting with the parties. The next meeting is in June.
The panel of mediators comprises former Supreme Court judge Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, as Chairman; spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a pioneer in alternative dispute resolution, as members.
The court sent the dispute for mediation on March 8 in a bid to heal minds and hearts. It gave the panel an initial deadline of eight weeks.
The eight weeks was the time given to the Muslim parties to examine the accuracy and relevance of the Uttar Pradesh government’s official translation of thousands of pages of oral depositions and exhibits in the title suit appeals pending since 2010 in the court. In fact, the court had invoked Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code to propose mediation as an “effective utilisation of time” during the interregnum.
“The report says the mediation process is on… We are inclined to grant them [the panel] time,” Chief Justice Gogoi remarked.
The committee held several rounds of mediation with the stakeholders in Faizabad district, and the mediation proceedings were held in camera.
The court had stressed the need for “utmost confidentiality” in the mediation to ensure its success.
No reporting by media
It had gone to the extent of opining that the media should refrain from reporting the mediation proceedings. “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,” it said.
The CJI had expressed the hope that mediation might spell a peaceful end to the volatile dispute between the members of the two religious faiths.
The court took the step despite objections raised by some Hindu parties that their faith in Lord Ram’s birthplace is “non-negotiable”.
The Bench had explained that the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case “is not about the 1,500 sq ft of disputed land, but about religious sentiments. We know its impact on public sentiment, on body politic. We are looking at minds, hearts and healing if possible”.
The court allowed the appellants to file objections in the translation of over 13,900 pages of documents that are part of the case as evidence.