SC extends Ayodhya mediation process till Aug. 15
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SC extends Ayodhya mediation process till Aug. 15

May 10, 2019

New Delhi:  A five-Judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi this morning gave the Supreme Court-appointed Mediation Committee time till Aug. 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 present in the courtroom. The Committee filed an interim report dated May 7 with the Constitution Bench.

Sources said the Committee conveyed that “progress” was being made in the talks and the panel was meeting with the parties. The next meeting with the stakeholders is in June. Besides the Chief Justice, the other judges in the Constitution Bench are Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.

The panel of mediators comprises former Apex Court Judge Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla, as Chairman, and spiritual leader Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a pioneer in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in the country, as members.

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.

The Court sent the Ayodhya dispute for mediation on Mar. 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 Ayodhya title suit appeals pending since 2010 in the Court.

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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 time,” Chief Justice Gogoi remarked.

The Committee has held several rounds of mediation with the stakeholders in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh and the mediation proceedings were held in camera. The Court had stressed need for “utmost confidentiality” in the conduct of the mediation to ensure its success.

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 may spell a peaceful end to the volatile dispute between the members of the two religious faiths. The Court took the mediation 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 1500 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.”

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