SC seeks progress report on Kalifullah-headed panel

SC says day-to-day hearing may start from July 25 in Ayodhya dispute

The Supreme Court sought the latest status report on Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya land dispute case. (Reuters File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a report by July 18 from the mediation panel headed by Justice F M I Kalifullah on progress made in the efforts to amicably resolve the Ayodhya dispute related to Ram Temple and Babri Masjid.

A five-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said if the report stated the mediation proceedings should be concluded, the court would start day-to-day hearing in the matter from July 25.

The court said it would take up the matter on July 18 to determine the future course in the protracted legal battle.

The court's order came after senior advocate K Parasaran, who, appearing for one of the parties from the Hindus side, sought an order for fixing an early date for listing of the case.

"The dispute of this nature is difficult to settle, several joint sessions before the mediation panel did yield any result," he said.

If any settlement comes, it can be filed during the hearing, he said, adding the Allahabad High Court even after reserving the judgement har tried mediation, but nothing came out.

"In January 1950, the suit was filed, the day I joined the bar. The legal representative of the main plaintiff himself is an 80-year-old," he said.

Senior advocate S K Jain, appearing for Nirmohi Akhara, submitted that there was no meeting grounds among the parties.

Representing the Muslims side, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan said that if one party was fed uo with the mediation, it did not mean that the court would wind it up.

"We object to this application for scrapping the mediation process. You should not issue notice on it. In fact, serious mediation is taking place," he said.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Ram Lalla, said the suit is of 1950. "I am requesting the matter should be heard at the earliest," he said, supporting the plea for concluding the mediation proceedings.

After giving a brief hearing to the parties, the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, said, "We deem it proper to ask Justice Kalifullah to state about the progress of mediation, latest by Thursday next."

"If the report says the mediation should be concluded, then the day to day hearing would take place from July 25," the bench ordered.

The application filed by the plaintiff in suit number one, Gopal Singh Visharad, survived by his 80-year-old son, Rajendra Singh, stated that during the eight weeks time granted by the court, the committee of mediators “could not make any effective headway”.

On March 8, the court had referred the 70-year-old dispute for mediation by a panel headed by Justice F M I Kalifulla to find out the possibility of an amicable settlement, though Hindu sides have opposed it.

Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, are two members of the panel of mediators.

The top court had on May 10 granted the mediation panel further time till August 15 to find out an amicable solution to the dispute.

A batch of appeals against the Allahabad High Court's 2010 judgement for the division of the disputed land among Ram Lalla, Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara in three equal parts, is pending before the apex court.

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