A spire of a Hindu temple is seen over a city wall in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg) 

#BQDebates: Will Mediation Lead To A Solution To The Ayodhya Dispute?

The Supreme Court referred the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation to a three-member panel. It will comprise Justice FM Kalifulla, former Supreme Court judge, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Sriram Panchu. Will it lead to a solution? BloombergQuint speaks to legal experts:

Mediation Will Depend On Confidence Of Warring Groups On Mediators

Mohan Parasaran, Former Solicitor General

This is a sort of new thing by the Supreme Court. We don’t know how far is it going to work out. It will all ultimately depend on the confidence of the warring groups on the mediators.

It’s a dispute concerning the community at large. When it becomes a dispute that causes passions to run high dividing communities, I think it’s a very uphill task. We have to definitely wait and see as to what progress they make.

Elections are going to be announced and appointing a mediator will be a breather for all political parties. We expect too many things. [But] I think this issue can’t be resolved like this.

It should be done directly by the judiciary, and it is a dispute which is adversarial, and since there is a judgment of a high court given by a full bench, it has to be resolved by the highest court.

Attempt At Mediation A Far-Sighted Approach

Aryama Sundaram, Senior Advocate

The constitution bench of the Supreme Court has quite clearly noticed and recognised that although it might technically be called a title dispute, the ramifications are far far more, and whatever way a judgment of the court goes, it is going to have its ramifications.

Being well aware of that and, as the bench itself put it, it’s a time for healing.

Mediation by the court, through court-appointed mediators is being attempted. This goes to show that what the court is looking at is the fact that the matter goes beyond just a title dispute suit. 

It involves emotions and has an effect on a huge number of people. It involves issues which, because of the very ramifications, could be called of some public interest. Therefore, the court has felt that there must be at least a last-ditch effort to resolve this through a mediation. Although, mediation efforts were made by individuals, this is a court-appointed mediation—by a constitution bench of the top court of the land. This ought to, and I believe, will be taken seriously by all the parties so that if at all there is a chance of a resolution, it can happen. If there is no chance of a resolution at all, then the inevitable is that it goes back for the court to consider and deliver a judgment.

I think the attempt at mediation is a very responsible and far-sighted way of the court saying: look, let’s make one last-ditch effort, and see if there’s any chance at all. 

Accordingly, a panel of mediators—all of whom I think have the experience and wherewithal to try and bring parties together—has been appointed. Let’s hope for the best.

Mediation Should Be Given A Chance

Sanjay Hegde, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court

Mediation should be given a try, and just let me explain to you what the mediation process is. The mediation process that the court has in mind is not just a kind of settlement process. A mediation process is an alternative dispute-resolution process which is quite professional, and Mr. Sriram Panchu has developed mediation in India to something almost resembling a fine art.

Mediation is getting both parties to focus on their interests. It is not necessarily only a resolution of disputes. The resolution of the dispute may come in at a later stage.       

Behind all the facts of the Babri Masjid and Ram Janmabhoomi, there are two very basic emotions, if I may put it that way. The emotion on the Hindu side is, we are a country with a Hindu majority. The majority of people now seem to believe there was a temple which commemorated the birth of Lord Ram at that site. The emotion is that we should at least, in free India, rebuild that temple, and that is a certain symbol of Hindu faith.

On the Muslim side, there is the emotion of saying that the standing of a mosque, whatever be its history, is also proof of the fact, that with the passage of time, we have come to be accepted.

A set of trained mediators can often address the underlying emotions and get the parties to walk in each other’s shoes, and possibly, come closer to an understanding. That is what the process is about.

Is there a possibility that both parties can understand each other, and come to some kind of a win-win situation where both can walk away from the conflict with their heads held high. That is what the process ideally is.

Mr. Panchu has impeccable credentials as a mediator. He has expertise in it. The other two, there is a former judge of the Supreme Court, and there is a man of faith, in whom a lot of people believe. It is hoped that with their collective goodwill, both parties can come to some kind of understanding, and I don’t see eight weeks as a waste of time that way. Whatever be people’s stated positions, in a mediatory process, things can emerge.

It’s only when the mediation process ends up in a solution which is acceptable to all parties to the conflict, do mediators report to court that we have a solution. If the mediators don’t come to an acceptable solution, they report to the court that there has been a failure of mediation. Now let the adjudicatory process take over. The binding nature of it comes from all the parties to the mediation consenting to the outcome.

Mediation Could Pave Way For Secular India

Vikas Singh, President, Supreme Court Bar Association

The high court has given a kind of mid-way verdict by saying that it [land] will go one-third for all. Basically one-third will be for public utility, one-third will be for the temple, and one-third will be for the mosque. That matter is in appeal, and both parties are contesting that one-third business is not correct and I am the full owner. The mediator tries to say that you run the risk of losing everything by a judicial determination.

If you were to decide and say there’s a situation where a temple could be built where the Hindus believe Lord Ram was born, and alongside a mosque could be built, a grand mosque could be built, and both could co-exist, that would be a great symbol of what India is all about, what secularism is all about.    

The mediator can also bring about the fact that namaaz was not being read at the mosque prior to the demolition, so all that can be used by the mediator. Even the fact that some excavation which happened sometime in 2001, by the Archaeological Survey of India, has also shown that there was a Hindu temple there.

All that if it is taken up in the judicial determination, the whole thing could be given to Hindus, and in a judicial mediation, the Muslims could feel this is a way of getting something.

Mediation The Only Way Out For Time-Being

Kingshuk Nag, Senior Journalist

It is a great idea that this mediation will be in-camera, and not in before public, and therefore the passions can’t be aroused. I think mediation is the only way out for the time being. Though even after mediation, whatever be the results, and what the court accepts, may not be fully acceptable by both the parties, but this is a way of life. You can’t perpetually fight over these matters, so I guess this is the best thing they could have done in the circumstances.

Watch the full video below.

No Room For Compromise

Subramanian Swamy, BJP MP

The only acceptable solution would be that the Muslim community has got a leeway. Muslims also have to recognise, and the Supreme Court has also said that, that the mosque is not an essential part of Islamic religion. Mosque can be shifted. It’s essentially a place to read namaaz, and namaaz can be read anywhere. They can go and build a mosque somewhere else, and there is no significance of a mosque in Ayodhya. Whereas for the Hindus, this is of great significance, and it is faith, and it constitutes a fundamental right to pray there. And therefore if the adjustment has to be made, if there is going to be a negotiated settlement, the Muslim community must use the flexibility they have, to build a mosque anywhere, and ask for another plot of land somewhere else, and ask government assistance in seeing that it is built expeditiously. That’s the only compromise possible. There’s no room for the temple to go anywhere else.

Watch the full video below: