For a formula for Ayodhya

The SC has advised out-of-court settlements before

March 24, 2017 12:15 am | Updated November 29, 2021 01:27 pm IST

Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, being demolished on December 6, 1992.

Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, being demolished on December 6, 1992.

The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute took a new turn in the Supreme Court with the Chief Justice of India, J.S. Khehar, advising the rival parties to have an out-of-court settlement. This is not the first time the court has given this advice in the dispute.

In 1994, a Constitution Bench of the court in Dr. M. Ismail Faruqui v. Union of India had said the Ayodhya dispute cannot, in national interest, afford a loser.

The Bench was hearing the constitutional validity of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993 and the maintainability of the Special Reference made by the President. The court based its views on facts stated in the White Paper on Ayodhya of February 1993, issued by the Centre.

The majority view of the Bench by Justice J.S. Verma for himself, then Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachaliah, and Justice G.N. Ray quoted Jonathan Swift’s “we have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another” to convey the nation’s predicament.

They advocated out-of-court negotiations while terming the demolition of the 16th century structure a “communal holocaust”.

“This is a matter suited essentially to resolution by negotiations which does not end in a winner and a loser while adjudication leads to that end. It is in the national interest that there is no loser at the end of the process adopted for resolution of the dispute so that the final outcome does not leave behind any rancour in anyone. This can be achieved by a negotiated solution on the basis of which a decree can be obtained in terms of such solution in these suits. Unless a solution is found which leaves everyone happy, that cannot be the beginning for continued harmony between ‘we the people of India’,” Justice Verma observed in the majority verdict.

In their dissenting view, Justices S. Bharucha and A.M. Ahmadi on the Bench said the court should reject the Reference outright. A judicial opinion can be used as a springboard for favouring one community over the other.

“Ayodhya is a storm that will pass. The dignity and honour of the Supreme Court cannot be compromised because of it,” Justice Bharucha wrote.

In September 2010, a Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and H.L. Gokhale held divergent opinions on whether the Allahabad High Court should pronounce its judgment on the Ayodhya title dispute. Justice Gokhale suggested further negotiations, saying a judgment may trigger passions and destroy communal harmony, but Justice Raveendran was sceptical.

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