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Court-Supervised Mediation in Ayodhya Dispute

iasparliament
March 09, 2019
3 months
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Why in news?

The Supreme Court ordered a court-supervised mediation to resolve the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in 8 weeks.

Click here to know more on the dispute. Click here to read on Centre's recent appeal.

What is the core dispute?

  • The dispute over the site at Ayodhya has been continuing since 1949.
  • A 16th century mosque stood at Ayodhya until it was torn down by Hindutva fanatics in December 1992.
  • After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the President referred the matter to the Supreme Court.
  • The court was to look into the question of whether there was a temple to Lord Ram before the mosque was built at the site.
  • The court, in a landmark decision in 1994, declined to go into that question.
  • However, it revived the title suits to decide on the ownership of the site and, thereby, restored due process and the rule of law.
  • The Supreme Court recently took up appeals against the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court which ordered a three-way division of the disputed site.

What is the court's order now?

  • The Court sought the views of the parties on invoking Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) which deals with mediation.
  • [Under Section 89 the court can order for a settlement among the parties.
  • The court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for -
  1. arbitration
  2. conciliation
  3. judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat
  4. mediation]
  • A five-judge constitution bench finally went for mediation and appointed former Supreme Court judge justice (retd) F.M.I. Kalifulla as the chairperson of the panel of mediators.
  • The other two members are spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.
  • The mediation proceedings will be held in-camera in Faizabad which adjoins Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
  • To ensure the success of the mediation process, the apex court directed that “utmost confidentiality" be maintained.
  • It also barred both print and electronic media from reporting the proceedings.
  • Hindu bodies, except the Nirmohi Akhara, have opposed mediation, while Muslim bodies have supported it.

How effective will mediation be?

  • Mediation is a welcome option for those involved in prolonged civil disputes.
  • However, it is questionable whether this principle can be applied to all disputes and in all situations.
  • Mediation in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is quite strange and incongruous.
  • This is because a number of attempts at mediation have been made in the past and all such previous attempts have ended in failure.
  • Further, the case is ripe for final hearing, and not all parties favoured mediation.
  • Moreover, the inclusion of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as one of the mediators is controversial.
  • In the past, he has made remarks to the effect that Muslims ought to give up their claim and that the failure to find a negotiated settlement will result in “civil war”.

Why is the order welcome still?

  • The apex court itself is not very keen on pronouncing a judgement on the issue.
  • It's because it is less of a legal issue and more a matter of sentiments and faith.
  • A compromise among both will indeed be preferable to a court order that may leave one side aggrieved.
  • An appreciable feature of the court-mandated mediation attempt is that it will not consume much time.
  • The same eight weeks are needed for preparation for the final hearing.
  • Moreover, the confidentiality rule will be helpful in avoiding any unrest with premature disclosures, especially during election times.

 

Source: The Hindu, Livemint, Indian Express

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