Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP
Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP

All three are from TN — Former Justice Kalifulla, spiritual guru Sri Sri and mediation expert Sriram Panchu; they have eight weeks to talk to all stakeholders

New Delhi: There is a glimmer of hope – of a solution being found to the decades-old Ayodhya dispute. The hope stems from the decision of the Supreme Court to refer the temple-mosque dispute to a three-member panel of mediators who have eight weeks to speak to all stake-holders and find a solution.

All three panel members happen to be from Tamil Nadu. Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla (68), who retired in July 2016, will head the panel.The other two members are spiritual teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (62), who was born in Tamil Nadu, and mediation expert Sriram Panchu (62), a senior advocate of the Madras High Court who has trained more than 500 mediators.

The mediation team will carry out its task under a cloak of secrecy without any media reporting, said the five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The in-camera sessions will be held in Faizabad in UP, the neighbouring town of Ayodhya. The court opted for mediation despite objections from petitioners, including the Uttar Pradesh government. The case was about “mind, heart and healing” and not land, the court had said earlier this week.

The success or failure of the mediation depends on whether the party representing the deity Ram Lalla Virajman and the Hindu Mahasabha, parties in the dispute before the Apex Court, participate or boycott in the exercise. The court, however, has said it was not appropriate to pre-judge that mediation would fail and people would not agree with the decision.

At the same time, Justice DY Chandrachud, who is part of the current bench, however, has said it would be very difficult to bind millions of people by way of mediation, considering it is not just a property dispute between parties but one involving two communities.

The RSS-affiliated Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has been canvassing for construction of the temple on the spot where the demolished structure stood, has rejected mediation efforts, pointing out that 11 such initiatives had failed in the past. The panel, which will hold its sittings, in all probability from next Friday, has been asked to file a progress report in four weeks.

The 5-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has given the panel latitude to co-opt more members, if need be. Directing the panel to maintain “utmost confidentiality”, the Bench has barred both print and electronic media from reporting its proceedings. Justice Kalifulla was the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir before joining the Supreme Court in April 2012.

He had joined the Madras High Court as a judge in March 2000. Panchu established India’s first court-annexed mediation centre in the Madras High Court in 2005 and assisted the Supreme Court as well as the High Courts in setting up mediation centres. The court had also asked him to mediate in a dispute involving the Parsi Panchayat in Mumbai.

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