‘No agreement’ on Ayodhya, mediation report submitted; SC takes it up today

The mediation panel submitted its report to the Supreme Court on Thursday, drawing the curtain on the negotiations to explore possibility of an out-of-court settlement.

The three-member mediation panel looking into the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute has been unable to get the various parties involved in it to come to an agreement, one of the persons aware of the development said on condition of anonymity.

The panel submitted its report to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope on Thursday, drawing the curtain on almost four-and-a-half month-long negotiations between Hindu and Muslim litigants to explore the possibility of an out-of-court settlement to the decades-long Ayodhya land dispute.

A five-judge constitution bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, will on Friday go through the panel’s report and decide on the future course of action in the contentious case.

If the panel’s report admits that mediation has failed, the court will start hearing the case.

On July 17, the Supreme Court, in response to a plea from one of the original petitioners in the case that the mediation panel wasn’t making any progress, ordered the panel to “inform the Court the outcome of the mediation proceedings as on 31.7.2019 by 1.8.2019 to enable us to proceed further in the matter in terms of the present directions.”

Since March, the top court has put on hold all judicial proceedings in the case, giving mediation a shot. The title suit in the matter is pending before the Supreme Court since 2010 after the two sides approached it against the Allahabad high court’s verdict dividing the disputed land into three equal portions – 1/3rd each for the Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination.

Hindus claim that the disputed site in Ayodhya marks the birthplace of the Hindu warrior-god Ram, and that the 16th century Babri Masjid that stood there was built on the ruins of a temple razed by Mughal invaders. The mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992 by activists of Hindu organisations that had been campaigning for the construction of a temple on the site.

The mediation panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge FMI Kalifullah, has as its members senior advocate Sriram Panchu and spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It was appointed by the top court on March 8 to explore mediation in an attempt to “heal relationships” between communities. The Uttar Pradesh government and most Hindu parties opposed the initiative. But it was welcomed by Muslim parties.

The panel was initially given eight weeks to explore the possibility of a settlement, but on May 10, after the panel submitted an interim report to the court, the SC granted it an extension of three months, till August 15.

Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Babri Masjid Action Committee, said, “I was not able to attend the final round of negotiations due to my prior commitments. But yes, I have come to know the panel has submitted its report. Representatives of four out of six Muslim litigants attended the last round of meetings.”

Last month, an application was filed by a plaintiff from the Hindu side seeking an early hearing on the matter, claiming the mediation proceedings had made no headway. “…in the three meetings participated {in} during a period of five months, neither any concrete proposal has come from anyone nor any headway is likely to be made,” the application said.

Following the request, the court advanced the date for the panel to submit its final report from August 15 to August 1.

Source: The Hindustan Times

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