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

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its orders on whether to refer the contentious Ayodhya dispute for mediation or not. It said that the case was not only about property but also about sentiment and faith. ‘‘It is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible,” the Bench observed.

So, even if there is “one per cent chance” of settling the dispute amicably, the parties should go for mediation, the bench said. A 5-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would pronounce the order “very shortly.”

The Hindu parties in the case, as also the Uttar Pradesh government, pleaded that any mediation on the issue was “not advisable or prudent,” since it relates to an article of faith on which no compromise is possible. The Bench, which also included next in line to be the Chief Justice of India, Justice S A Bobde, said the court was conscious of the gravity of the issue and its impact on the body polity, but an attempt for a negotiated settlement was “desirable.”

When the petitioners delved into history, the judge observed: “Don’t tell us about history, we also know history. We have no control over the past… We cannot undo who invaded, what Babur may have done, who was king at the time, whether there was a mosque or temple…”

When the Hindu Mahasabha, one of the petitioners, argued that “the public will not agree to mediation”, Justice Bobde said, “You are saying it will be a failure. Don’t pre-judge. We are trying to mediate.” Other judges on the Bench were Justices D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer.

The Muslim parties, led by the Sunni central Waqf Board, did not oppose mediation but wanted the Bench to simultaneously start the hearing, as they are waiting for nine years since the High Court ruling. Rajiv Dhavan, who is representing Muslim groups, said any mediation should be in-camera. Justice Bobde agreed: “It has to be confidential.

The case shouldn’t be commented on in the media. While the process is on it shouldn’t be reported.” On a question by the petitioners on whether the mediation would be binding, Justice DY Chandrachud pointed out that it would be tough for a dispute involving two communities.

“How do we bind millions of people by way of mediation? It won’t be that simple,” he said. Justice Bobde remarked: “When a party is the representative of a community, whether it is a court proceeding in a representative suit or mediation, it should be binding.”

The petitioners could give the names of possible mediators, the court said. Among the others objecting to mediation was CS Vaidyanathan, representing the deity Ram Lalla or infant Ram, who said, “Ayodhya is Ram Janmabhoomi; this is an article of faith and it is not negotiable.

A mosque can be built at some other place. What would be the purpose of mediation?” Fourteen appeals have been filed in the Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court judgment, partitioning 2.77 acres of land, on which once the demolished Babri Mosque stood, among three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. Input NDTV

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