NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday granted time till August 15 for the completion of the mediation process in the decades-old, politically sensitive Ayodhya's Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case. A three-member panel headed by ex-apex court judge F M Khalifullah, formed to find a possibility of an amicable solution to the case, had submitted its interim report on in a sealed cover on Thursday.
The extension was given on the basis of a request made by Justice F M Khalifullah. "If the mediators are optimistic about the result and are seeking time till August 15, what is the harm in granting time? This issue has been pending for years and years. Why should we not grant time," the bench said.
The matter came up for the first time on Friday since March 8 order of the top court which had referred the case for mediation to the panel.
The counsel appearing for both the Hindu and Muslim parties expressed confidence over the ongoing mediation proceedings and said they are fully cooperating with the process.
The matter was being heard by a five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.
One of the advocates appearing in the matter said the apex court had earlier given eight weeks time to the panel of mediators and now nine weeks have gone by.
"We had given eight weeks and the report has come. We are not inclined to tell you what is there in the report of the committee," the bench said.
One of the counsel told the bench that there are around 13,990 pages of documents in vernacular languages and said some wrong translations have been made which would be a problem.
"Objections, if any, on the translation may be placed on the record by written note by June 30," the bench said, adding, "Nobody will come in the way of mediation".
Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, are the other two members of the panel of mediators.
The bench was told earlier by Hindu bodies, except for Nirmohi Akhara, and Uttar Pradesh government that they oppose the court's suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies supported the proposal.
While opposing the suggestion of mediation, Hindu bodies had argued that earlier attempts of reaching a compromise have failed and provisions of Civil Procedure Code (CPC) require public notice to be issued before the start of process.
The top court had directed that the mediation proceedings should be conducted with "utmost confidentiality" for ensuring its success and the views expressed by any of the parties including the mediators should be kept confidential and not be revealed to any other person.
However, it had refrained from passing any specific restraining order at this stage and instead empowered the mediators to pass necessary orders in writing, if so required, to restrain publication of the details of the mediation proceedings.
The top court had fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said that the adequate arrangements including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel should be forthwith arranged by the state government so that proceedings could commence immediately.
It had also directed that the mediation proceedings be held in-camera as per the norms applicable to conduct the mediation proceedings.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.
(With online desk inputs)