Ayodhya Dispute to be settled by a ‘confidential’ Court monitored mediation; No Gag order passed [Full Report]

Supreme Court: The 5-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and SA Bobde, Dr. DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, JJ has referred the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, famously known as the Ayodhya Dispute, to a Court-monitored Mediation. It said:

“Notwithstanding the lack of consensus between the parties in the matter we are of the view that an attempt should be made to settle the dispute by mediation.”

Stating that there is no legal impediment to making a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the disputes arising out of the appeals, the Court said that whether Order 1 rule 8 CPC and Order XXIII rule 3-B of the CPC would apply in the event parties arrive at a settlement/compromise in the mediation proceedings is a matter left open to be decided at the appropriate stage.

Panel of Mediators:

  1. Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifulla, Former Judge, Supreme Court of India – Chairman
  2. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – Member
  3. Shri Sriram Panchu, Senior Advocate – Member

The members are at liberty to co-opt other members of the Panel.

Where and how:

The proceedings will take place and Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh. The Court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to provide mediators all the facilities in Faizabad. Mediators can seek further legal assistance as and when required. The proceedings will be held in-camera.

Time-frame:

The mediation process is expected to commence within a week and the mediators have to send a report of the progress of the mediation to the Court within four weeks of the commencement of the process.

Confidentiality of the proceedings:

The Court said that the mediation proceedings should be conducted with utmost confidentiality so as to ensure its success which can only be safeguarded by directing that the proceedings of mediation and the views expressed therein by any of the parties including the learned Mediators shall be kept confidential and shall not be revealed to any other person. The Court further said:

“while the mediation proceedings are being carried out, there ought not to be any reporting of the said proceedings either in the print or in the electronic media. However, we refrain from passing any specific order at this stage and instead empower the learned mediators to pass necessary orders in writing, if so required, to restrain publication of the details of the mediation proceedings.”

In it’s order dated 26.02.2019, the Court has said that:

“the mediation suggested is only to effectively utilize the time of eight weeks that would be taken to make the cases ready for hearing.”

Reserving it’s order on 06.03.2019, the Court had said:

“Even if there is one percent chance, it should be explored.”

[M. Siddiq v. Mahant Suresh Das, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 342, order dated 08.03.2019]

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