Indian SC orders mediation in Babri Masjid land dispute

NEW DELHI (AFP): The Indian Supreme Court on Friday ordered mediation to settle the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya title dispute case.

According to Indian media reports, the Supreme Court referred the case for mediation and said the process will be held in Faizabad.

The apex court has appointed a three-member mediation committee comprising former Indian Supreme Court judge Justice Ibrahim Khalifulla, senior advocate Sri Ravi Shankar and Sriram Panchuas. The panel has been given eight weeks by the court to arrive at a conclusion and four weeks to give a status report. The three members, however, have the liberty to get more people on board if they want, said the top court.

Furthermore, the court directed both parties to maintain utmost confidentiality during the process of mediation, which will be held in-camera.

There ought not to be any reporting in print or electronic of the mediation process, the court further said.

On Wednesday the Indian Supreme Court had reserved its judgment in the case after hearing both sides on the proposal to try out mediation as an alternative to litigation to settle the decades-old dispute.

What is the dispute?

The Ayodhya dispute is about a plot of land measuring 2.77 acres in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, which houses the Babri mosque and Ram Janmabhoomi. This particular piece of land is considered sacred among Hindus as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. Muslims argue that the land houses the Babri mosque, where they had offered prayers for years before the dispute.

The dispute arises over whether the mosque was built on top of the Ram temple.

In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had said that there should be a partition of the Ayodhya land between the two parties. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had urged the apex court to hear a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court order. The SC has asked Swamy to consult the parties and mention the matter on or before 31 March.

The apex court had, however, suspended the ruling in 2011 after the Hindu and Muslim groups had appealed against the verdict.