New Delhi: In a judicial first for the country, Chief Justice of India J S Khehar has offered to mediate out of court and settle the Ram Janmabhoomi - Babri Masjid dispute, which has been dragging on for almost 24 years.
Since the issue involved claims which are lost in history, the CJI, while hearing an application by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to expedite the hearing, said, it "was a matter of sentiment and must be resolved amicably.”
But the parties to the case have expressed staunch refusal to any such procedure and have demanded a verdict which could give the land to any one party.
Ranjana Agnihotri, Counsel for Ram Lalla in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute told News18 that “even the question of negotiation does not arise and only a verdict in favour of one party or an ordinance can solve this dispute.”
“When we did not agree to the 1/3rd distribution of land between all the three parties then why should we agree to the question of negotiation? It is a land where Ram Lalla was born and there is no question of any mosque there. Justice DV Sharma, who had delivered the minority view in the Allahabad HC judgment, had clearly stated that this land cannot be attributed to any other party except Lord Ram."
"We have waited for so many years, and we can wait for a few more, but a verdict has to be delivered. If the court finds delivering a verdict difficult, then an ordinance route can be adopted to expedite building the Ram temple like it was done during Jallikattu. Negotiation means 50-50 and we are not ready for that,” said Agnihotri.
Ram Lalla’s counsel also said “applications by Subramaniam Swamy do not make any sense.” “He was neither a party nor a litigant in the case, his application for being impleaded as a party in the SC case was rejected by the High Court, then why is he seeking a judicial order now?” questioned Agnihotri.
Justice Aftab Alam in 2011 had restored the case to status quo when the parties had challenged the Allahabad HC verdict dividing the land between Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla in 1/3rd proportions as it was not prayed for by any of the parties.
However, Justice DV Sharma, while delivering his minority view in the Allahabad HC verdict, had held that the entire disputed area belongs to Hindus (Ram Lalla and his representatives) and the premises should be handed over to them. He had also ordered that "All other parties to the dispute be permanently restrained from interfering with, or rising any objection to, or placing any obstruction in the construction of the temple at Ram Janmabhoomi Ayodhya at the site.”
Even the other party to the case did not seem inclined to the CJI’s proposal for negotiation. Syed Qasim Ilyas, Joint Convener of the Babri Masjid Committee told News18 that the “process of negotiation and arbitration was already over and cannot happen again.”
“Even before several talks have been conducted but no results were achieved. The matter of arbitration and negotiation has been completed. Even a dialogue between the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Babri Masjid Committee failed to yield any results. Whenever talks have taken place, VHP has claimed that this land rightfully belonged to Ram. We do not agree to the proposal that the Chief Justice of India will act as a mediator,” said Ilyas.
However Ilyas said that there was a chance “that the matter could be solved by mediation” as other processes have already been exhausted. He also said that “the issue has to be settled on the basis of legal position not sentiments.”
However, the son of the oldest litigant Hashim Ansari who passed away last year, told News18 that the offer of the SC is “not a bad one and can help in solving the fight.”
Iqbal Ansari told News18 that, “this fight has been dragging along for very long now. Negotiation can help end this fight. Even before, panchayats used to resort to this method and disputes were solved and it can be the case now too.”
Zafaryab Jilani, convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, is not against attempts at negotiations, but said daily hearings on the case should commence.
“We do not see the possibility of any such move. Previous attempts have all failed but since CJI is himself willing to monitor the issue, then there will be some legal sanctity to it and not like before where an agreement between the parties was devoid of any legal status. We will forward our opinion soon but we also demand a day to day hearing of the case,” said Jilani.