Chief Justice Khehar offers to mediate in Ayodhya dispute

In a surprise development on Tuesday, the Supreme Court called for an ‘out-of-court’ settlement of the Ayodhya dispute, asking BJP MP Subramanian Swamy to report back on March 31

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Political Bureau

A fortnight after observing that it was in favour of a joint trial of the accused including BJP leader LK Advani for ‘conspiracy’ to demolish the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, the Supreme Court today called upon the parties to negotiate an ‘out-of-court’ settlement of the vexed issue. A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court had in 2010 relied on folklore, faith and myths to decide that Hindus had the right to build a temple under the central dome of the Babri mosque.

Significantly on March 6 the Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Krishna Kaul had appeared to concur with the court on the need to have a joint trial of the accused, something that Mr Advani’s lawyer KK Venugopal had vehemently opposed. A report on the court proceedings in the matter on March 6 can be read here.

On Tuesday morning, however, the Supreme Court said fresh attempts must be made by all parties concerned to find a solution to the Ayodhya temple dispute which is a "sensitive" and "sentimental matter", reported PTI. A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said that such religious issues can be solved through negotiations and offered to mediate to arrive at an amicable settlement. "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 also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul said.

The observations came after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy mentioned the matter seeking urgent, day-to-day hearing of the issue. Later Swamy tweeted, “Had a good meeting UP CM just now in Parliament House. Apprised of Ram Mandir issue in today's SC. we will meet again Lucknow.”

The BJP MP had consistently maintained that construction on the Ram temple at Ayodhya would commence in 2017. And with Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and the Supreme Court seemingly reluctant to go into legalities, the controversial issue appears to have been revived. The Parliamentarian told the court that he had approached the Muslim community members who told him that judicial intervention was required to solve the matter.

"You must make fresh attempts to arrive at a consensual decision. If required, you must choose a moderator to end the dispute. If the parties want me to sit with mediators chosen by both the sides for negotiations, am ready to take up the task. Even the services of my brother judges can be availed for the purpose," the CJI said.

The top court said that it may also appoint a principal negotiator if the parties want. The bench then asked Swamy to consult the parties and inform it about the decision on March 31. On February 26 last year, the apex court had allowed Swamy to intervene in the pending matters relating to the Ayodhya title dispute with his plea seeking construction of Ram temple at the site of the demolished disputed structure.

The BJP leader had earlier moved the plea for a direction to allow construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya at the disputed site and had mentioned it before a bench headed by the then Chief Justice TS Thakur for an urgent hearing. In his petition, Swamy had claimed that under the practices prevalent in Islamic countries, a mosque could be shifted to any other place for public purposes like constructing road, whereas a temple once constructed cannot be touched. He had also sought directions to expedite the disposal of several petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict of three-way division of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya on September 30, 2010.

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