- Ayodhya dispute a matter of sentiment and faith, Supreme Court says
- Have no control over the past, cannot undo things: Court to petitioners
- The Constitution Bench said it is considering mediation "very seriously"
The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is not an issue of land but one of "sentiment and faith", the Supreme Court said today as it heard the response of various petitioners to its suggestion that mediation can help resolve the decades-old row. "It is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible," said a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi which reserved its decision on referring the case to a court-appointed mediator.
Justice SA Bobde, one of the five senior judges hearing the case, said: "Don't tell us about history, we also know history. We have no control over the past... We cannot undo who invaded, what Babur may have done, who was king at the time, whether there was a mosque or temple..."
The judges said that they were "conscious of the gravity of the dispute and the outcome of mediation on body politics."
As the Hindu Mahasabha, one of the petitioners, argued that "the public will not agree to mediation", Justice Bobde said, "You are saying it will be a failure. Don't pre-judge. We are trying to mediate."
The Uttar Pradesh government also opposed mediation.
Lawyer Rajiv Dhavan, representing Muslim groups, said any mediation should be closed to the public. Justice Bobde agreed: "It has to be confidential. The case shouldn't be commented on in the media. While the process is on it shouldn't be reported."
On a question by the petitioners on whether the mediation would be binding, Justice DY Chandrachud pointed out that it would be tough for a dispute involving two communities. "How do we bind millions of people by way of mediation? It won't be that simple," he said.
Justice Bobde remarked: "When a party is the representative of a community, whether it is a court proceeding in a representative suit or mediation, it should be binding."
The petitioners could give the names of possible mediators, the court said.
Among the others objecting to mediation was CS Vaidyanathan, representing the deity Ram Lalla or infant Ram, who said, "In a case like this, Ayodhya is Ram Janmabhoomi (Ram's birthplace) and it is faith and it is not negotiable. A mosque can be built at some other place. What would be the purpose of mediation?"
The dispute involves the site in Ayodhya where the 16th-century Babri mosque stood before it was razed in 1992 by Hindu activists who believe that it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The Constitution Bench has asked petitioners to explore the possibility of settling the dispute through mediation, saying it may help in "healing relations". Even if there is "one per cent chance" of settling the dispute amicably, the parties should go for mediation, the bench had said.
Justice Bobde had suggested mediation during a hearing in which the Hindu and Muslim petitioners were arguing over documents.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the top court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties - the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Ram).
Besides Chief Justice Gogoi, Justice Bobde and Justice Chandrachud, the bench includes Justices Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.