The Supreme Court on Wednesday set October 18 as the final deadline for all parties to finish their arguments in the Ayodhya land dispute case. The apex court said that it will work extra hours if required to meet the deadline. The Supreme Court also allowed mediation process and said that the mediation panel can come up with its report.
Earlier, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the parties in the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid land dispute to come up with a tentative time schedule or date when the arguments can be concluded. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked all parties to apprise it as to when their arguments are likely to be completed, hinting that the court can pronounce the judgement as submissions are over.
After a submission of tentative schedule by both Senior advocates CS Vaidyanathan and Rajeev Dhavan, CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that hearing of the arguments would be completed by October 18.
It is worth mentioning that in this decade old case the judgement has to be delivered before Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi retires on November 17, otherwise the entire process will go into restart mode. That is why Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has taken this initiative.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it has received a letter from former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla, who was heading the three-member mediation panel, saying some parties have written to him for resumption of the mediation process.
“There is an ancillary issue. We have received a letter that some parties want to settle the matter by way of mediation,” the bench said, adding they may do so and proceedings before the mediation panel can remain confidential.
The bench said the day-to-day proceedings in the land dispute case have reached “an advanced stage” and will continue. The court, however, said the mediation process under the chairmanship of Justice Kalifulla can still continue and proceedings before it will remain confidential.
The bench also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, told lawyers from both Hindu and Muslim side that it wanted to conclude the day-to-day hearings in the case by October 18 so that judges get almost four weeks time to write the judgement.
The apex court on August 6 had commenced day-to-day proceedings in the sensitive land dispute case as mediation proceedings initiated to find the amicable resolution had failed.
The apex court had taken note of the report of the three-member panel, also comprising spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, that mediation proceedings, which went on for about four months, did not result in any final settlement and it had to decide the matter pending before it.
The apex court, which on March 8 referred the matter for mediation, had asked for in-camera proceedings to be completed within eight weeks, but later granted time till August 15 after the panel’s earlier report said that the mediators were “optimistic” about an amicable solution.
The top court had fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements, including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel should be forthwith arranged by the state government.
The court had perused a report about the progress of mediation process till July 18 and said that its contents will remain confidential.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgement, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.