When the Supreme Court today suggested that the parties involved in the sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case try to arrive at an amicable settlement through mediation, it wasn't the first time the judicial body was pushing for such a resolution.
On March 21, 2017, a bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul had also suggested that the land dispute case be resolved through mediation. However, the parties involved were not very keen on such a move.
The matter later came up for hearing before a bench headed by his successor, Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, which tried to take forward the appeals filed against a 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment that the land - measuring 2.77 acres - be partitioned equally between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. The court had refused to refer the matter to a five-judge constitution bench.
Now, with several developments linked to the dispute - including the recusal of Justices UU Lalit and NV Ramana - delaying the proceedings, the bench headed by Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi on February 26 again echoed the suggestion made by the apex court in March 2017. The judicial body - comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer - again asked the parties concerned on February 26, 2019, to explore the possibility of amicably settling the decades-old dispute through mediation - saying that it may help "heal relations". Even if there's just "1% chance" of settling the dispute amicably, the parties should go for mediation, the bench suggested.
"Do you seriously think that this dispute, running for so many years, is only for property? We can decide property rights, but we are also considering the possibility of healing relations," the bench said.
While some of the Muslim parties agreed to the court's suggestion on mediation, a few Hindu bodies - including the Ram Lalla Virajman - opposed it on the grounds that several attempts of the kind had failed in the past.
Even in 2017, Justice Khehar-led bench had said that such religious issues can only be resolved only through negotiations. "These are issues of religion and sentiments. These are issues where all the parties can sit together and arrive at a consensual decision to end the dispute. All of you may sit together and hold a cordial meeting," the bench had said.
(With inputs from PTI)