The Supreme Court on March 6 pressed for a compromise on the Ayodhya title suits dispute, with Justice S.A. Bobde on a Constitution Bench, saying the court is only concerned about the present state of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case and not the past history of Mughal invasion and conquests of Babur.
Justice Bobde is part of the five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, which reserved for orders the question whether the decades-old dispute, primarily between the Hindu and Muslim communities, should be sent for mediation.
To a lawyer appearing for one of the Hindu parties, who said the mediation effort was bound to fail as the dispute was about religious sentiments, Justice Bobde retorted, "Do you think we are not as religious as you... We may be more religious than you".
It's about religious sentiments: Justice Bobde
Justice Bobde said, "Primarily this is not about the 1,500 sq. ft. of disputed land, but about religious sentiments. We know its impact on public sentiment, on body politic. We are looking at minds, hearts and healing, if possible."
When the lawyer continued to press on the injustices meted out by "Muslim invaders", Justice Bobde shot back, "Don't give us any history. We have no control of the past. We had no control over Babur invading... What we have control of is the dispute now and here."
The judge said the proposed efforts for mediation should not be pre-judged even before it started. "Are you not pre-judging the situation even before mediation has started" he asked the lawyer.
The Hindu parties, however, seemed unconvinced about the court's suggestion for a negotiated compromise with the Muslim community. "The faith that Lord Ram was born there is not negotiable. But we are willing to crowd-fund a mosque somewhere else," senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, for Ram Lalla, the deity, submitted. They said a public notice should be issued on the point whether the dispute should be sent for mediation.
Even Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, on the Bench, expressed doubts about the binding nature of a compromise.
"The Ayodhya dispute is not between two private parties and concerns two communities. How can we bind them under the mediated resolution, if any" he asked, though agreeing that a negotiated outcome would be desirable and even the best way out of the volatile dispute.
But Justice Bobde intervened to observe that every community is represented by their respective bodies in the court in the Ayodhya dispute, which is originally in the nature of a representative suit.
The judge said when communities were represented by parties, the outcome, whether it was by court proceeding or mediation, would be binding on the communities too. He stressed that the mediation process, if ordered, should be done confidentially and there should be no reporting on it.
"When the Ayodhya mediation is on, it should not be reported on. It may not be a gag, but no motive should be attributed to anyone when the mediation process is on," he suggested.
Parameters have already been settled, says Subramanian Swamy
Rajya Sabha member and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy submitted that the parameters of the Ram Mandir case have already been settled. The validity of the Ayodhya Act had been upheld by Supreme Court, he said.
It is a clear decision of the then P.V. Narasimha government that in case a temple was found below the structure, land would be given to Hindus for construction of a Ram temple. The Archaeological Survey of India had found that a temple pre-existed and, thus, land should be given for making a Ram temple.
Order to be pronounced shortly
The court considered the possibility of appointing more than one mediator and asked the parties to suggest names "in the event" it orders in favour of a mediation. It said an order would be pronounced "shortly".
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Uttar Pradesh government, said the path of mediation was both "imprudent and inadvisable."
But senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan, appearing for appellant M. Siddique, interjected and strongly objected to the presence of Mr. Mehta on the case. "This is unacceptable. He is the Solicitor General of India. He is the statutory receiver. It is on record that the U.P. govt is uninterested in the dispute," Mr. Dhawan protested.
Under the Ayodhya Act of 1993, the Centre is holding the acquired land, which includes the disputed land, as a non-partisan, statutory receiver.