The Supreme Court will on Friday decide whether to refer the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute, which has been pending for over 60 years, for mediation.
A five-Judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved the verdict on referring the matter for an in-camera, court-monitored mediation process on Wednesday.
The top court had said during the hearing it thinks that primarily the issue is not about 1,500 square feet land, but about religious sentiments, and stressed that it is conscious of the impact of the issue on “public sentiment” and on “body politic”.
The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, had also underlined that it has no control over what Mughal ruler Babar did and is only concerned with resolving the present situation.
Hindu bodies like Nirmohi Akhara suggested names of Justices (retd) Kurian Joseph, AK Patnaik and GS Singhvi as mediators, while the Hindu Mahasabha faction of Swami Chakrapani proposed the names of former CJIs Justices J S Khehar and Dipak Misra and Justice (retd) A K Patnaik to the bench.
While reserving the order, the court had said that the parties involved in the case may suggest names of mediators for consideration if it orders mediation on the dispute.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Hindu bodies except Nirmohi Akhara opposed the suggestion of the court to refer the issue for mediation, while Muslim bodies supported it.
At the outset, when a counsel appearing for a Hindu body said that the issue should not be referred for mediation as it would fail and public would not agree, the bench said that it is not appropriate to pre-judge.
It said that when the court orders mediation, outcome is not the consideration and it is not assuming that someone will give up its claim.
“You are saying it will be a failure. We are not assuming that somebody will give it up. Primarily, we think this issue is not a property dispute. It is not about the 1500 sq ft but it is about the religious sentiments and faith.
“We are conscious about the gravity of the issue and we are also conscious about its impact on body politic of the country. We understand how it goes and are looking at minds, hearts and healing if possible,” the bench said.
When a lawyer contended about the injustices meted out to the Hindus by invaders in the past, the bench said, “We are not concerned what has happened in the past. Don’t you think we have read the history. We are not concerned what Babar did in the past or who was the king and who invaded. We cannot undo what has happened but we can go into what exists in the present moment”.
Justice Bobde, who appeared inclined to give mediation a chance yet again, emphasised that this is a representative suit, involving people from two communities, and hence, amicable resolution would be as good as a decree of the court.
Justice DY Chandrachud, another judge on the bench, however, expressed his doubts as to how mediation will bind millions of people.
Earlier too, attempts have been made to settle the politically sensitive case amicably.
A three-judge Bench of the Allahabad High Court had tried mediation after arguments concluded on August 3, 2010. The process had collapsed apparently after the ‘Hindu’ side said it was not acceptable.
Former CJI JS Khehar had in 2017 also called for mediation and described the Ayodhya dispute as a matter of “sentiments and religion”.
“Give a bit, take a bit. Make an effort to sort it out. These are issues best decided jointly. If the parties want me to sit with mediators chosen by both the sides for negotiations, I am ready to take up the task,” the then Chief Justice ha said. This attempt by the court, however, not formal, and did not go anywhere.