Updated: August 6, 2019 3:25:40 am
The Supreme Court’s initiative to push for a negotiated settlement in the Babri Masjid case has failed to find traction. The three-member panel set up by the apex court conducted extensive consultations with the stakeholders in the dispute, but evidently could not convince the parties to agree to an out-of-court settlement. This does not come as a surprise. Previous attempts to mediate, too, had failed since the parties to the dispute refused to budge from their stated positions. The case has become a political battleground involving history and myth, faith and identity. Within the deadline set by the Court, it was ambitious perhaps to expect that the mediation committee could provide a breakthrough for an over seven-decade-old matter. The panel led by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice F M I Kalifullah, including Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, was set up in March this year with a deadline of eight weeks, which was extended till July 31.
The committee reportedly persuaded one side to come with a proposal that included a plan to build a mandir and masjid adjacent to each other at the disputed site. That, however, did not elicit a response from the backers of the temple. The committee also presented a possible deal premised on shifting the mosque outside the contested site. This deal had four elements, among them freezing the status of all places of worship as per their status on August 15, 1947 (as stated in The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991) and providing alternative land and funds to build a mosque anywhere. The parties to the dispute appear to have discussed the proposal, but failed to reach a consensus. Those seeking to build a Ram temple at the site where the masjid stood before it was pulled down by kar sevaks on December 6, 1992, see it as a political project and are unwilling to cede any ground. The other side insists that the land where a masjid stood could not be given for any other purpose.
Now that the mediation effort has failed, it is for the Supreme Court to decide this sensitive and fraught issue. It must ensure that due process is respected by both sides. The litigation itself has gone on for long and the accumulated layers have only added to the complexity of the issue. The challenge before the Court is to separate the multiple strands in the dispute and settle it in a way that is fair and is seen to be so too.
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