A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer today referred the long pending Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land dispute case for mediation.
“We do not find any legal impediment to making a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the dispute(s) arising out of the appeals. Whether the said provisions 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.
“We have considered the nature of the dispute arising. 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”, the court said.
The Court, after taking note of the names suggested by the parties, has constituted a three-member panel of mediators in the following composition
Former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice F M Ibrahim Khaliifulah – Chairperson
Founder of Art of Living Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – Member
Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu – Member
Mediators have been granted liberty by the Supreme Court to co-opt other members of the Panel, if so required.
The court has also said that 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 mediators shall be kept confidential and shall not be revealed to any other person. Further, it says proceedings must be held in camera as per the norms applicable to the conduct of mediation proceedings.
To ensure the success of the mediation proceedings, the same should be held in Faizabad (Uttar Pradesh) and adequate arrangements in this regard, including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel, etc. should be forthwith arranged by the State Government so that the mediation proceedings can commence immediately. The court said it expects the proceedings to commence within a week from today, March 8, 2019.
In so far as media reporting with regard to the publication of mediation proceedings is concerned, the court has not passed any gag order. The court has, however, empowered the panel members to pass necessary orders in writing, if so required, to restrain publication of the details of the mediation proceedings. The Chairman of the mediation panel may also inform the Registry of the Supreme Court of any difficulties that the panel may face in carrying out the task assigned to it by the present order and also to inform if of any requirement to facilitate the mediation and to conclude the same at the earliest.
The court has called for a progress report within four weeks of the commencement of the mediation proceedings.