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Retired SC, Mediation Expert and Spiritual Guru: The New Hope for Decades-old Ayodhya Dispute

The mediation panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kallifull, will also include spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, said a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.


Updated:March 8, 2019, 12:35 PM IST
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Retired SC, Mediation Expert and Spiritual Guru: The New Hope for Decades-old Ayodhya Dispute
File photo of Sri Sri Ravishankar, FM I Kalifulla and Sriram Panchu.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday referred the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kallifulla and gave it eight weeks to complete the process.

The other members of the panel will be spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, said a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The bench directed that the mediation will be held at Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh and the process should start within a week from Friday.

Here's a look at the three members of the panel which is in-charge of the mediation process.

Justice (Retd) FMI Kalifulla

Kalifulla’s tenure as the Chief Justice if J&K makes his stature distinct. He enrolled as an advocate on August 20, 1975, after which he began practising labour law in the law firm TS Gopalan & Co. On March 2, 2000, he was appointed as a judge of the Madras High Court.

In February 2011, he became a member of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and was appointed to serve as the acting Chief Justice two months later. In September 2011, he was named as the Chief Justice of High Court of Jammu and Kashmir. On April 2, 2012, he was elevated to the Supreme Court of India, sworn in by then Chief Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia.

At his farewell function organized by the Supreme Court Bar Association, it was stated that it was Justice Kalifulla who had played a vital role in suggesting the way forward for the case on BCCI administration by providing “valuable insights”.

"While deciding the BCCI matter, I felt like I was sitting beside a former Indian cricket captain. That was the extent of the insight provided by Kalifulla. He has so much insight into the working of the BCCI. I am eternally grateful to him for helping me and the game as such in regaining its glory. Nothing is forever, nothing is eternal. But I think my short association with Justice Kalifulla will stay forever,” then CJI Justice Thakur had said.

After assuming office, Kalifullah had delivered several landmark verdicts like the one related to introduction of Vedic astrology as a course of scientific study in Indian universities, which had the seal of approval of the Supreme Court.

Another important case was elections to the Chennai City Corporation. Sitting in a division bench, he rendered a dissenting judgment, holding that the election in respect to 99 wards was liable to be set aside. The matter was referred to a third judge, who also confirmed the view of Justice Kalifulla.

He retired from the Supreme Court on July 22, 2016.

Advocate Sriram Panchu

Advocate Sriram Panchu is known as the ‘pioneer of the mediation movement in India’. His followers say his work is a combination of “mediation and arbitration.” The other experts observe that he developed innovative methods that are easy to understand and solution-based to mediate in complex cases.

Known for ensuring finality of results with the best possible solution, all eyes are now on him on mediating the Ayodhya dispute.

Panchu is known for his role as the mediator in the 50-year-old boundary dispute between the Assam and Nagaland. In 2010, the apex court appointed him as the mediator of Assam-Nagaland disputes, for which he travelled across the two states for spot assessment.

He was quoted in the media as saying that he wanted to bring out an agreement out of cohesive approach through meditation.

Panchu was instrumental in establishing India’s first court-annexed mediation center in the Madras High Court in 2005. From conducting wide-range of mediations in civil to commercial disputes, he has also trained many mediators and assisted the Supreme Court of India and high courts in setting up mediation centers. The Court has also appointed him to mediate a dispute involving the Parsi Punchayat in Bombay, and public disputes.

Panchu is part of the panel of international commercial mediators of recognized mediation institutions and delivers talks on mediation internationally. He has authored books, “Mediation: Practice and Law” and “Settle for More” – the why, how and when of mediation. He gives talks and writes about mediation nationally and internationally. He lives in Chennai, India.

Shri Shri Ravi Shankar

Among the three people named by the Supreme Court in the mediation committee on the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar may be the only one with some prior experience of the assignment at hand.

In an interview to India Today in March 2018, the spiritual guru had said, "Muslims should give up their claim on Ayodhya as a goodwill gesture. Ayodhya is not place of faith for Muslims...We cannot make Lord Ram to be born in another place.”

The 62-year-old founder of the 'Art of Living' guru has been working to get the Ramjanmabhoomi dispute resolved in an out of court settlement over the last few years. In 2018, two Muslim petitioners in the case had come out publicly in support of his out-of-court settlement plans.

Though Shankar's efforts suffered setback when one of the two Muslim petitioners - Maulana Salman Nadvi - subsequently dissociated himself from efforts of the spiritual guru.

In his interview on Ram Mandir issue, the spiritual guru has been quoted as saying that "We will have a Syria in India" if Ram Mandir is not solved.

In the same interview, he had also said, “If court rules against a temple, there will be bloodshed. Do you think the Hindu majority will allow it? They will garner resentment towards the Muslim community.’’

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