The in-camera sessions will be held in Faizabad, the neighbouring town of Ayodhya
New Delhi: The decades-old Ayodhya temple-mosque dispute has been referred to a three-member panel of mediators who have eight weeks to speak to all stake-holders for a solution, the Supreme Court said today. A former Supreme Court judge, FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and a senior advocate, Sriram Panchu, will be in the mediation team that will carry out its task confidentially, without any media reporting, said a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The in-camera sessions will be held in Faizabad, the neighbouring town of Ayodhya. The court opted for mediation despite objections from petitioners including the Uttar Pradesh government. The case was about "mind, heart and healing" and not land, the court had said earlier this week.
Here are the top 10 points of today's ruling
- "Mediation will take place. We don't see any legal obstruction to it," said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi while delivering the order on India's most politically sensitive dispute at a time political parties are in election mode.
- The mediation team will be led by Justice (Retired) FM Ibrahim Kalifulla. The other members are Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. They are free to include more members in the committee, the court said. The mediators will begin their discussions with the petitioners in Faizabad from next Friday. They have to submit a status report in four weeks.
- The top court, which has been advocating negotiations for two years, received the feedback of the petitioners during a hearing on Wednesday. Barring the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara, one of the Hindu petitioners, all were against mediation.
- The Hindu groups had argued that a solution through mediation will not be accepted by a majority of the community. The court said it was not appropriate to pre-judge that mediation would fail and people would not agree with the decision.
- Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the bench, however, said it would be very difficult to bind millions of people by way of mediation, considering it is not just a property dispute between parties but one involving two communities.
- Tweeting with the hashtag #ayodhyamediation, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has volunteered to mediate in the dispute since the top court floated the idea two years ago, said: "Respecting everyone, turning dreams to reality, ending long-standing conflicts happily and maintaining harmony in society - we must all move together towards these goals."
- The dispute involves 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya, where a 16th Century mosque, said to have been built by Mughal emperor Babur, stood. Hindu groups believed the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple that marked the birthplace of Lord Ram. The mosque was razed by Hindu activists in December 1992. In the days that followed, 2,000 people died in riots across the country.
- In 2010, the Allahabad High Court, while hearing the title suit of the Ayodhya case that has been pending for six decades, allotted two-thirds of the land to Hindus and said they could keep a makeshift temple over the razed mosque's central dome. The Sunni Waqf Board was given a third of the land. Both Hindus and Muslims approached the top court, filing 14 petitions that challenged the High Court order.
- A campaign for the Ram temple at Ayodhya had propelled the BJP into a major political force in the 1990s. Ahead of the coming national election, the temple issue has again vaulted to the forefront. Right-wing groups have pushed for fast-tracking the temple through an ordinance or executive order passed by the government. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that no decision can be made until the judicial process is over.
- In January, in a move big on optics, the government asked the Supreme Court's permission to hand over the land near the disputed site to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, the trust overseeing the Ram temple plan. The 2.77-acre disputed site is surrounded by 67 acres of land that was acquired by the government a year after Babri masjid was demolished.
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