ayodhya

Ayodhya dispute and mediation. (IANS Infographics)

NEW DELHI — Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat remarks in Udaipur, implying a grand Ram temple would be built in Ayodhya, has brought up the issue in the public eye yet again, though the dispute is pending in the Supreme Court.

"Ram ka kaam karna hai, Ram ka kaam ho kar hi rahega (Ram's work needs to be done and Ram's work will be done)," the RSS chief had remarked May 26 during his visit to Udaipur, where he was accompanied by spiritual leader Morari Bapu.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court extended the time for the mediation committee on Ayodhya till Aug. 15. The court said the members of the committee were not experiencing any difficulty in the mediation process.

The court observed that the chairman of the committee, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, had indicated progress in mediation and sought extension to complete the task. The other two members of the panel are Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, renowned spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living Foundation; and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, who is a well-known mediator in the legal circles.

The larger question is on the utility of mediation on the dispute, what if, after exhausting several months in engaging all stakeholders concerned, it does not yield any result. Historically, many stakeholders have not favoured mediation as a strategy to develop a consensus on an issue linked to the faith of a large section of society.

Vishnu Jain, advocate representing Hindu Mahasabha, told IANS, "Mediation is certainly a difficult mechanism to streamline decision-making, and then, arriving at a decision favoured by all stakeholders. If the mediation fails, then the dispute is back in the grind. It will be scheduled for final disposal, which includes lengthy hearing. Therefore, it is not possible to conclude when this issue will be resolved through judicial process."

A five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer, is conducting hearing on the matter. In the previous hearing, the top court had referred the politically sensitive case pending for many decades for mediation, and constituted a panel for the purpose.

Former Supreme Court judge F.M. Kalifulla has been tasked by the court to hold consultation to explore a potential avenue through which an amicable settlement could finally be reached.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh believes that there is a legal alternative to resolve the issue, if mediation fails. Speaking to IANS, Singh said: "The Central government has the authority to hand over the disputed land to any trust. The government on the basis of the archeologically evidence can issue a notification and then, place that notification before the Supreme Court. Mediation can also succeed, if those engaged could agree on building a temple and mosque adjacent to each other."

The panel was constituted after the court noted "the lack of consensus between the parties in the matter.” 

Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the panel to conduct in-camera proceedings and the complete the mediation within eight weeks. The court had recommended this on Feb. 26, when it took up appeals regarding the dispute.

The court had said it could decide only on a property issue, and that what it was looking at was "a possibility of healing relationships.” During the hearing, the court had stressed maintaining confidentiality of the proceedings, as it will protect the ongoing dialogue to be shielded from unwarranted controversies and also unsolicited comments.

Muslim petitioners welcomed the court's decision on mediation, but Hindu bodies, except for the Nirmohi Akhara and the Uttar Pradesh government, were not in favor. Kumar Mihir, advocate-on-record for the Supreme Court, said the mediation cannot succeed.

"No mediation is possible on matters of faith. Instead, the court should treat this only as a title dispute. The site being the centre of faith for a vast majority of Hindus, it can be handed over to the temple with adequate compensation to the Muslim side. Otherwise, the claim of the Hindu side is historical on the disputed site. A makeshift temple already exists; the possession of 'Ram Lala Virajman' on the site cannot be disturbed."

The apex court is hearing appeals against the Sept. 30, 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. The verdict ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77-acre site between the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Uttar Pradesh and the deity 'Ramlala Virajman'.

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