Ayodhya: mediation worth pursuing

A member of a Hindu group during a protest in support of Ram Temple, near Supreme Court in New Delhi. PTI

The Supreme Court’s proposal for a court-monitored mediation effort on the Ayodhya dispute should be considered seriously by the litigating parties. An appeal against the Allahabad high court’s judgement on the dispute is before a Constitution bench of the top court, and the court is set to start hearings on it. The high court had divided the disputed site among the three parties to the case. None of them was satisfied with the judgement, and all of them went to the Supreme Court in appeal. The appeal has lain in the court for nine years. The Ayodhya issue and legal dispute has a history of many decades. The court is right in posing the question whether a judicial decision would put an end to it. 

Much mediation and a lot of negotiations have been made on the issue in the past. They failed and that is why the matter is still before the court. But what the court has proposed is different from the earlier attempts. It has proposed a court-monitored mediation under a court-appointed monitor. Since the process will be under the court’s supervision, the legality of the contentions of the parties will certainly be closely tested. The parties, after all, have gone to the court to settle the legal issues related to the title suit. But, as the court noted, the issue is larger than a title dispute. If it was just a title issue, a Constitution bench may not have been required to deal with it. As the court noted, the matter involves the right to worship, which is not always decided on the basis of law. The court’s comment that it can only decide on property and is therefore considering the “possibility of healing relations’’ is relevant and important. 

What the court did not say was that the dispute involves politics, too, and there is much political capital invested in it. Those who have made such investment would like to get returns, and unfortunately there may be a situation in which they will try to make gains whichever way the judgement goes. The Muslim parties have broadly agreed with the court’s suggestion, but one of the Hindu parties has opposed it. It should be noted that the court has not discounted the judicial process but has only proposed that the mediation efforts can go along with it. It has also thought of a format under Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code for the mediation initiative, which makes it a legal process. There is much merit in the proposal even if, as the court said, “there is only 1% chance of its success’’. 

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Ayodhya: mediation worth pursuing

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