SC refers for mediation Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case

New Delhi: A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Friday referred the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for court-appointed and monitored mediation while imposing a media ban on its coverage.

Retired top court judge F M Kallifullah will be the chairman of the panel, a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.

The panel will also include Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, it said.

In its order, the bench said that the mediation proceedings will be held in-camera in Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh and will be completed in eight weeks.

The apex court also said that there will be no reporting of the mediation proceedings in the media.

“The court-monitored mediation proceedings will be confidential,” Justice Gogoi said.

On Wednesday, the bench had reserved its order on the mediation issue, saying it was “looking at hearts, minds, and healing if possible”, and that a “negotiated settlement” was the “best way to restore peace”.

The bench, which also comprised Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, was hearing appeals against the September 30, 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court which ordered a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya between the Nirmohi Akhara sect, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, Uttar Pradesh and Ramlalla Virajman.

The bench had said it could only decide on the property and what it was looking at was “a possibility of healing relationships”. It had sought the views of the parties involved, citing Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Section 89 states: “Where it appears to the court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the court shall formulate the terms of settlement and give them to the parties for their observations and after receiving the observations of the parties, the court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for (­a) arbitration; (b) conciliation; (c) judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat; or (d) mediation.”