Calling for the report of the mediators it had appointed to find an amicable solution to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, the Supreme Court Thursday said daily hearing on appeals challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ayodhya matter will likely commence July 25 if mediation efforts are not making progress and have to be concluded.
A five-judge Constitution Bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer, asked the mediation committee — headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifullah, it also includes spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, senior advocate Sriram Panchu — to inform it about the progress of mediation by July 18 after which it will decide whether it should be continued or ended to start hearing the appeals.
“We deem it proper to request Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla to inform this Court the progress of mediation till date and the stage at which the said process is presently at. It will be convenient to have the said report latest by 18th July, 2019, on which date further orders will be passed by this Court. We also make it clear that if this Court comes to a conclusion that, having regard to the report of Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla, the mediation proceedings should be ordered to be concluded, the Court will do so and order for commencement of the hearing of the appeals before it, tentatively, on and from 25th July, 2019, which hearings, if required, will be conducted on day-to-day basis,” the bench said.
The judges were hearing a plea by Rajendra Singh, son of Gopal Singh Visharad who was one of the plaintiffs in the original civil suit in the Ayodhya land matter. Singh claimed there was “not much progress” in the mediation ordered by the court and urged it to declare “that the mediation proceedings… have been concluded” so that hearing on the appeals can start.
Appearing for him, senior counsel K Parasaran said the mediation was not progressing as desired. “Dispute of this nature is difficult to settle,” he told the bench, adding “the court should authoritatively decide the matter”. He said Visharad’s suit was filed in 1950 even before the Constitution came into existence — the suit was filed on January 16 and the Constitution came into effect on January 26 that year — and 69 years have passed.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for one of the appellants, opposed the plea to declare the mediation proceedings as concluded and asked if the application was an attempt to intimidate. “I don’t think it’s fair to doubt the methodology adopted by the committee… Very serious mediation is going on… What is the purpose of filing this application, if not to intimidate us? They want to say we are not accepting anything?”
The bench then said it had given the mediation committee time till August 15. It said it would, however, call for a status report to evaluate the process. It also reminded the parties to the dispute that though it had asked them on May 10 to inform in writing their stand regarding the accuracy or correctness of the translations of the voluminous evidence, “such stand of the parties has not been laid before the Court till date”.
Ruling on September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court had awarded a third each of the disputed 2.77 acres at the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site to the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Uttar Pradesh and the idol Ramlalla Virajman. Appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against this verdict.