SC Orders Mediation in Ayodhya Land Case: What Does it Mean?
The Supreme Court on Friday, 8 March at a hearing, ordered mediation to settle the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya title dispute case by a three-member panel, in order to arrive at a “permanent solution”.
The members of the panel which will be mediating the case are Justice (Rtd.) Kalifullah, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.
The Supreme Court directed the mediation proceedings to be conducted in camera, and also said it is the view of the court that the mediation proceedings should be kept confidential and that the print and electronic media shouldn’t publish anything about them. However, the judges have not passed a gag order and have left it to the mediators to decide what restrictions to impose on the press.
The mediation process will be held in Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad and is supposed to start as soon as possible. The mediators are supposed to provide an interim report to the Supreme Court in four weeks.
Click here for all live updates about the case.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Instead of having to go to the courts, the mediation process requires the parties to sit down with mediators, in a less formal setting. The process allows the mediators to find out what each of the parties want and if there is any scope for agreement. They can then try to arrive at a compromise between them.
All the parties can make submissions to a mediator or a panel of mediators, with less procedural formality. The mediators will hear each side, and try to find a reasonable compromise which can then be agreed on by all the parties.
Courts Can Mandate Mediation
Mediation can be mandated by the courts under Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 ever since 1999. This was included to ensure that the burden of the court is reduced, and parties actually make an effort ensure that the matter is resolved between them, rather than continue fighting over it.
The courts have been given the power to mandate mediation in an issue even if the parties involved do not agreed to it.
There has been some debate about mandating mediation in the Ayodhya dispute case since this was a representative suit and there are matters of public interest involved. However, the judges have said that there is no “legal impediment” to go forward and the three-member panel can also add more members to the ranks, if they so wish.
The Discussion With the Parties
The panel of mediators will sit down and hear what the Hindu parties, including the Ram Lalla have to say about how the land should be shared in the disputed land. They will also hear arguments on whether they will be willing to help in the construction of a mosque to replace the one which was lost when the Babri Masjid was destroyed.
They will discuss with the Muslim parties and several other petitioners who had filed cases in this matter. The discussion here will revolve around whether they will be willing to compromise and agree to share the land with the Hindu parties, keeping in mind that the Muslim parties have been claiming the land for a very long time, specially since Babri Masjid did exist on the disputed land.
The issue in the Ayodhya case is that of a title dispute and mediation is generally ordered in such cases because resolving the issue becomes easier when someone sits down with the parties and helps them to arrive at a solution.
Mediation is generally meant to be a quicker process than court hearings. The court in this case has provided eight weeks for the mediation to be carried out and has asked for a status update within four weeks.