On March 8, 2019, the Supreme Court referred the Ayodhya dispute for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kallifulla. The two other members on the panel were spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu. Then a ray of hope appeared that long-standing dispute might be resolved outside the court unanimously. But mediation could not succeed. The Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on August 2 said that mediation efforts in the Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid land dispute have failed and the case will now be heard by the Supreme Court. The entire nation is looking towards the apex court for a clear cut verdict in this dispute.
As per the decision of the Supreme Court bench, the hearing, in this case, has already started on August 6 on a daily basis. The lawyer for ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’ K. Parasaran told the Supreme Court on August 7 that unshakeable faith is proof of Ram’s birthplace. Really, Ayodhya dispute is a matter of faith, not a mere legal case. So, it seems that there are least chances for a solution. The questions the Supreme Court judges are asking during the hearing are not wise such as Whether Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem… Has such a question ever arisen in any court? Whether there is any descendant of Lord Ram in the world or not? The bench also quoted the Uttarakhand High Court’s judgement, which treated the holy river Ganga as living and as well as a juristic entity entitled to pursue the litigation.
The Supreme Court had been trying to avoid this case and on March 8, 2019, it referred for mediation. The court has taken this case as a land dispute case but it is broader than this. The Allahabad High Court also attempted to solve this dispute by giving joint possession of the disputed land to both Hindus and Muslims in a three-way partition in September 2010. But the parties challenged this verdict in the Supreme Court. At least 14 appeals have been filed in the top court against the Allahabad High Court judgement, which said that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya will be partitioned equally among the three parties the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The five-judge Constitution bench, headed by CJI Gogoi, had asked the three-member mediation panel on July 18 to inform the court about the outcome of the mediation proceedings as on July 31 to enable it to proceed further in the matter. The bench also indicated that the contents of the report will remain confidential as per its earlier order. The Kalifulla panel had earlier submitted its report in a sealed cover, containing details about whether any progress was made in the in-camera mediation process.
Last year on December 24, 2018, the Supreme Court decided to take up petitions on the case for hearing on January 4. The court on January 4 said that an appropriate bench constituted by it would pass an order on January 10 for fixing the date of hearing in the title case. The Supreme Court on January 8, 2019, set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the case headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit, and D Y Chandrachud. Justice UU Lalit recused himself prompting the Supreme Court to reschedule the hearing for January 29 before a new bench. On January 25, 2019, Supreme Court reconstitutes the 5-member Constitution Bench to hear the case. The new bench comprises Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer. On January 27, 2019, Supreme Court canceled the January 29 hearing due to non-availability of Justice S A Bobde. The Centre moved the Supreme Court on January 29, 2019, seeking permission to return the 67-acre acquired land around the disputed site to original owners. On February 20, 2019, the apex court decides to hear the case on February 26. The Supreme Court favoured mediation on February 26, 2019, and fixed March 5 for order on whether to refer the matter to a court-appointed mediator.
It is remarkable that the Supreme Court had sought a report on the mediation process and said that a day-to-day hearing might commence. The top court had earlier passed the order while hearing an application filed by a legal heir of one of the original litigants, Gopal Singh Visharad, who sought a judicial decision on the dispute and conclusion of the mediation process, saying that there were no developments on that front.
The panel, which also comprised spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living Foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu, was earlier granted time till August 15 by the apex court for completion of mediation after its earlier report had said that the mediators were optimistic about an amicable situation. The Supreme Court had fixed the seat for the mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, which is located around seven kilometres from Ayodhya.
The Supreme Court on Thursday quizzed ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’, one of the parties in the Ayodhya dispute, if the birthplace of the deity can also be regarded as a “juristic person” having stakes in the case, though the deity is treated as a juristic person which can possess properties and institute litigation.
A five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked senior advocate K Parasaran, appearing for ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’ which itself is a party, how ‘Janamsthanam’ can file the case in the land dispute as a party. “Whether the birthplace can be held to be a juristic or juridical person.” So far as idols of deities are concerned, they had been held to be a juristic person,” said the bench.
Parasaran said, “In Hindu religion, idols are not necessary for a place to be regarded as a holy place of worship. Rivers and Sun are also worshipped in Hinduism and birthplace in itself can be treated as a juristic person.”
The lawsuit filed by the deity in the Ayodhya case has also made the birthplace of Lord Ram a co-petitioner and has sought claim over the entire 2.77 acres of disputed land at Ayodhya, where the disputed structure was razed on December 6, 1992.