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SC orders mediation to settle Ayodhya dispute

Giving another chance for mediation, the Supreme Court today ordered setting up of a three-member panel headed by a former apex court judge FMI Kalifulla to explore a possible settlement of the decades-old politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya.

Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, well known for his mediation experience, will be the other two members of the panel. Interestingly, all the three men appointed by the apex court hail from Tamil Nadu where the Ayodhya dispute does not have much resonance.
The mediation process at Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from the twin city of Ayodhya, will commence within a week and the panel will submit a progress report within four weeks, the top court said in its order that came ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

It said the mediation proceedings to be held “in-camera” and in “utmost confidentiality” would be completed within eight weeks, which is the interregnum period granted earlier by the apex court to the parties in the main Ayodhya case to go through translations of oral and documentary evidences.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it does not find any “legal impediment” to make a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the dispute.

“We therefore order accordingly, and having taken note of the names suggested by the parties, we are of the view that the following panel of mediators should be appointed to go into the dispute with liberty to the mediators to co-opt other members of the panel, if so required,” it said.

Declaring the names, the bench said: “Justice (retd) Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla – Chairman, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – Member, senior advocate Sriram Panchu – Member.”

The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, was told earlier by Hindu bodies, except for Nirmohi Akhara, and Uttar Pradesh Government, that they oppose the court’s suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies supported the proposal.

However, both sides suggested the panel of names for possible mediators.

The three panel members separately said they would strive to achieve a resolution of the vexed dispute.

“For the present, I can only say that if the committee has been constituted, we will take every step to resolve the dispute amicably,” Kalifulla said in Chennai. He had earlier served as a judge of the Madras High Court.

While Ravishankar said everybody must move together to end long-standing conflicts, Panchu said the court has given a “serious” responsibility and he will do his best. – PTI

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