Delivery of Mediation Order: 8 March 2019

The Supreme Court delivered an order, referring the Ayodhya Title Dispute to mediation. The mediation will commence within one week and will last for eight weeks. The mediation panel comprises: Ret'd Justice FM Kalifulla (Chairman), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu.

 

A 5 judge Consitution Bench of the Supreme Court is currently hearing appeals against the decision of the Allahabad High Court, which divided the land at Ayodhya between Ram Lalla, the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara. 

 

On 6th March, the Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan, and S Abdul Nazeer heard the counsels present oral arguments as to whether mediation was a legal possibility. The Bench specifically expressed interest in referring the dispute to mediation for a period of 8 weeks, which is the time provided to the parties to file objections to the official translation of case records.

 

One the primary arguments against the case being referred to meditation was that the present case is a representative suit, the outcome of which will impact the public at large, who will not be bound by the agreement reached during the mediation. Specifically, Order I Rule 8 and Order XXIII Rule 3-b of the Code of Civil procedure, 1908 (CPC) were referenced.

 

Pronouncing the order today, CJI Gogoi observed that nothwithstanding the lack of consensus between the parties, the Court found no legal impediment to invoke the procedure for mediation under Section 89 of the CPC. The Court thus referred the dispute between the parties to mediation for reaching a settlement and resolving the dispute. It was further noted that the applicability of the provisions of the CPC that were relied upon by the parties would be dealt with at an appropriate stage, should a settlement be reached. 

 

The Court accordingly ordered as follows:

  1. The dispute between the parties is to be referred to mediation by a three member panel comprising Retd. Justice Fakir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla as its Chairman. The other two members of the panel are Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation and Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu. 
  2. The mediation proceedings are to be conducted in camera with utmost confidentiality so as to ensure the success  of the same The views expressed during the proceedings by any of the parties including the Mediators shall be kept confidential and shall not be revealed to any other person. There is to be no reporting of the proceedings while the same are ongoing, however the Court has not passed any specific direction this effect, but left it to the Mediators to pass any necessary orders to restrain publication of the details of the mediation proceedings. The Chairman of the Mediation Panel mayinform the Registry of the Court of any difficulties that the panel may face in carrying out the task assigned to it. 
  3. The mediation procedings are to be held in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh and the Government of the State of Uttar Pradesh is to make adequate arrangements in this regard including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the learned Mediators, their security, travel, etc at the earliest so that the proceedings may commence within a week from today. The timeline for completion of the  proceedings has been fixed at 8 weeks. However, the panel will submit a progress report after 4 weeks from the commencement of the proceedings.