Supreme Court orders mediation in Ayodhya title dispute, appoints panel

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered mediation in the Ayodhya title suit. The court appointed a three-member panel to mediate in the case, while delivering the order on court-monitored mediation. Mediation panel is required to give its report within four weeks.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi passed the order. The other judges on the bench are justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer.

Mediation will begin within a week at Faizabad and state of UP has to make necessary arrangements. Mediation panel is required to give its report within four weeks. “Mediation will take place. We don’t see any legal obstruction to it,” said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi while delivering the order. “Mediation proceedings will remain confidential. There would be no reporting in any media,” the court said.

FM Khalifulah to head mediation panel

The mediation will be done by a three-member panel. Justice FM Khalifulah, the retired Supreme Court judge is the chairman of the panel. The apex court said the panel will be free to induct more mediators or seek legal assistance. Other mediators on the panel are Art of Living head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. Panchu is a trained mediator.

Justice FM Kalifulla, 68, is the son of Late Justice M Fakkir Mohamed, who started his career as an advocate in August 1975. He was also an active labour law practitioner. Justice Kalifulla was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court on April 2, 2012.

“I understand the Supreme Court has appointed a mediation committee headed by me. I’m yet to receive the order copy. I can say if a committee has been constituted we’ll make every effort to resolve the issue amicably,” Justice Kalifulla told reporters after the top court’s order.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, 62, is a spiritual guru, who has been leading a worldwide movement for a violence-free society.

Sriram Panchu, 69, is a senior advocate and mediator. Founder of The Mediation Chambers, he had set up India’s first court-annexed mediation centre in 2005, and has played a key role in making mediation a part of India’s legal system.

The court mentioned mediation as a possibility to resolve the contentious dispute in a hearing on February 26. The judges suggested an amicable resolution while telling the parties that they were seriously “giving a chance for mediation” in an attempt to “heal relationships”.

Outcome may be known only after polls

The verdict will assume political significance because it comes just weeks ahead of the general elections this summer.

If the dispute is referred to a mediation process, the outcome will likely be known only after the polls.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday had reserved its order after hearing both sides on the proposal to try out mediation as an alternative to litigation to settle the decades-old dispute.

The suggestion was opposed by the Uttar Pradesh government and the Hindu parties, except the Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination that is one of the main parties to the civil suit, but was welcomed by the Muslim side.

The court is hearing petitions challenging a 2010 Allahabad high court order that trifurcated the 2.77-acre-site between the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Waqf Board, and Ram Lalla (the child deity).

The court is also considering a petition by the Centre, which wants to release 67.7 acres of land acquired in 1993 around the site — except for .303 acres on which the actual disputed structure stood — to its original owners.