Mediation which Clench Polemic Case But Failed: Ayodhya Case

    A good settlement is better than a good lawsuit – By Abraham Lincoln.” Mediation is another process of alternative dispute resolution and essentially, it is a negotiation facility. In this method, by the help of the third party, the dispute can be solved and the parties can reach a desired conclusion. The process of mediation is suitable for some cases, for it solves the dispute in a short period. Mediation constitutes a task-oriented and a hand-on process. This helps the parties to solve the dispute with less economic hindrances. In this paper, the author tries to give brief facts of the case “M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors.” (Babri Masjid), and tries to give the reason why mediation fails in solving the dispute between the parties.

    History and judgment

    The story begins in the year 1528, when the first Mughal ruler Babar built a mosque known as Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and many Hindus claimed that it was built over a temple which has been there since the 11th century. In 1853, first violence was noticed between Hindus and Muslims- eventually this violence was resolved by the then Nawab of Awadh – Wazid Ali Shah.

    In 1949, an idol of Lord Rama appeared in the mosque and the local Hindus started offering prayers, however then again both Hindus and Muslims started fighting and filed civil suits. The city Magistrate gave the order to lock the gates, but prayers were continued.

    “In 1950, a suit was filed by Gopal Singh Visharad before Faizabad civil judge seeking unrestricted darshan. After this, the next suit was filed in the year 1959 by a Religious sect, Nirmohi Akhara, claiming a right to the land. Moreover, in 1961 Sunni Waqf Board put in its claim for the mosque’s restoration.”

    In 1986, Umesh Chandra Pandey filed a case seeking his right for worship, and on February 1 Faizabad Sessions Judge gave the order to worship at the site.

    In 1988-89, about 2,00,000 shila pujas were held all over India leading to riots, notably in Bhagalpur in Bihar. On behalf of the deity, Justice Devaki Nandan Agarwal filed a case. After this, the Allahabad High Court issued interim directive for the disputed land and all the pending cases of District Court were transferred to it.

    “In 1990 BJP Government’s L.K. Advani went on a rath yatra and was arrested in Samastipur, Bihar. Thousands of kar sevaks gathered in Ayodhya. The mosque was partially damaged and 30 people were killed in police firing. By all this, the BJP tally rose, and the party won the UP assembly polls.”

    In October 1991, Places of Worship Bill passed by the Lok Sabha, said all religious places shall be maintained according to their status on August 15, 1947. Ayodhya was left out as the matter was ongoing in court. And finally, on December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished by frenzied kar sevaks, and Rioting broke out all over India, leaving 1,200 people dead.

    On January 7, 1993 the central government acquired the 67 acres surrounding disputed lands, and quashed all the pending suits by passing an ordinance. The Supreme rejected this and on March 6, 2002, Centre approached the Allahabad High Court seeking hearing of the case. Three high Court judge bench listened to the dispute of Ayodhya land.

    “March-August 2003: Archaeological Survey of India excavates in Ayodhya on the directions of the Allahabad high court. It claims to have found evidence of a temple beneath the mosque. Muslims disputed the findings, and on September 30, 2010, Allahabad High Court gave the judgment that the site should be split- 1/3 for the Hindus, 1/3 for the Muslims, and the remainder shall go to the Nirmohi akadha sect”.

    “In May 2011, the Supreme Court suspended the high court ruling after Hindu and Muslim groups appealed against the 2010 verdict.”

    In February 2015, Hindus and Muslims met three times to solve the dispute, however they failed in doing so.

    On March 21, 2017, the Supreme Court said that the matter is very “sensitive and sentimental matter”, therefore it would be better if it is done by the process of mediation. However, the mediation failed, and the Supreme Court decided to hear the civil appeals filed by the various parties against the Allahabad High Court judgment.

    Twice, a five-judge bench was constituted to listen to the verdict- for the first time on January 8, 2019.  It consisted of judges Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, Justice NV Ramana, Justice UU Lalit and Justice DY Chandrachud. Next year, on January 25, 2019, the bench consisted of Chief Justice Gogoi, Justice Bobde, Justice Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice SA Nazeer.

    Again on February 26, 2019, the Supreme Court favored mediation and the mediator was appointed by the Supreme Court. And on August 1, 2019, the three mediators submitted the report in a sealed envelope to the top Court.[1]

    Finally, on “November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment that the disputed land (2.77 acres) is to be handed over to a trust (to be created by Government of India) to build the Ram Janmabhoomi (revered as the birthplace of Hindu deity, Ram) temple. The court also ordered the government to give an alternate 5 acres of land in another place to the Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque.” 

    https://legalreadings.com/adr/

    Development in recent judgement

    After the judgment was passed on November 09, 2019, the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) started planning to move the Supreme Court to claim the debris of the demolished Babri Masjid. One Muslim leader said that they are arranging the land in Ayodhya to dump the Debris. On this statement, Triloki Nath Pandey said that they had no problem, and that they can take all the debris, which showed gesture of brotherhood and communal harmony.[2]

    After this, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad said that they are expected to build Ram Temple in 2024-25 and appealed to each Hindu house to denote Rs. 44 for the temple. They also said that the trust would use the design of its 30-year-old model for building the temple.[3]

    In all this “Nripendra Misra had been chosen as the chairman of the Ram Temple Complex Development Committee on Wednesday. Moreover, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief Nritya Gopal Das had been named the chairman of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerath Kshetra Trust. These are the members of the committee who are headed for the construction of the Lord Ram temple.”[4]

    28 years later, on March 25, 2020, the UP Chief Minister shifted the Lord Ram idol, so that the first phase of the construction of the temple could start.[5]

    Sociological analysis

    The demolition of the Babri Masjid created communal distress among the citizens, and almost divided the society into two parts- Hindus and Muslims. The destruction of the Babri Masjid including other destructions, provoked the Muslims, due to which several communal riots occurred. Hindus and Muslims attacked each other, burnt and looted homes, shops and places of worship. Several BJP leaders were taken into custody based on the hunch that these riots occurred because of them. Subsequently, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) was banned by the government. In these riots, nearly 2000 Muslims died, spreading over many cities such as Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Delhi, Bhopal, and several others. The biggest rioting occurred in Mumbai between December 1992 and January 1993, and this riot killed around 900 people, and the estimated property damage was of around ₹9,000 crores. After this, the investigation started and a committee was set up. Eventually, the committee submitted a 1029 page report to the Prime Minister. In April 2017, a special Central Bureau of Investigation court framed criminal conspiracy charges against Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, and several others.

    Reason for failure of mediation and critical analysis

    In the case of “M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors.”, the court tried to solve the matter through mediation twice. However, both the times it failed, because the parties were not in support of the mediation. Firstly, in the year 2010, the three member bench of the Allahabad High Court wanted the parties to settle the dispute through mediation, however they failed in doing so, for the Hindu parties were out of the mediation process. They were not satisfied with the process of mediation. Secondly, the Supreme Court wanted to settle the dispute, so they set up a panel of three judges, in February 2019. This time as well, the mediation process failed. The question was, if the process of mediation failed the first time, then why did the court want to conduct mediation again? The answer to this question was that the case stretched for a very long time, and no substantial result came out. In the process of mediation, both the parties sit and discuss what they want by the mediation process. This is a short process that does not take too much time. This is why, even after the failure of mediation once, the Court wanted to conduct the mediation again so that the unresolved issues are resolved. However, the second time as well, the mediators were not able to come up with a solution.

    “To solve the dispute through mediation, three mediators were appointed by the 5 judge bench of the Supreme Court, and “the panel was headed by former apex court judge F.M.I. Kalifulla, and the panel also included spiritual guru and founder of the Art of Living Foundation Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu” [6].

    Reasons for the failure of mediation

    The reason for the failure of mediation the second time were[7]:-

    1.   The parties had no faith in the process of mediation.
    2.  When the center announced that they will return the land of 0.313 acres to the rightful owner, objections were raised by one of the key contenders.
    3. The Nimrohi Akhara, one of the contenders of the parties, was not satisfied with the formation of the panel of mediation, and he filed an application in the Supreme Court for the same.
    4. “Nimrohi Akhara wanted the panel of mediators to be joined by at least two more members, and the venue shifted from Faizabad to New Delhi.”
    5. Several Muslim groups raised problems with the composition of the panel. They had a problem with the Guru of Art of Living, for he continuously said that the Muslims have to be given another land in Ayodhya, to build a Mosque.
    6. His opinion in an interview provoked the Muslims. He said that if Babri Masjid’s case is not solved soon, then India will surely become Syria one day.
    7. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also said that Shri Shri Ravi Shankar failed to set in the definition of the mediator.
    8. “The mediator is neutral. The neutrality of the mediator is akin to the neutrality of a Judge but the role of the mediator is completely different from that of a Judge…As a neutral, the function of the mediator is to enable the parties to arrive at a mutual and voluntary agreement.” This statement was made by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in one of his articles. 

    By the statement of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, we can conclude that the Shri Shri Ravi Shankar was not neutral, since he already had an opinion to give all the land to Hindus.

    The problem in the process of mediation was from both sides, i.e. the parties and the Court did not solve their dispute through mediation; also the statements of Justices gave the parties a reason to not agree with the process of mediation and stretch the case for as long as they could.

    All the statements and parties clearly show that the parties were not in favor of mediation and they did not want to settle the dispute through mediation.

    Conclusion

    In this article, the author has tried to explain why in the case M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors., also known as the Ayodhya Case, the court was not able to conduct the mediation to solve the dispute.

    By reading all the materials the author comes to the conclusion that both the parties, and even judges of the Supreme Court, to some extent, were at fault in the conduct of the mediation.

    Finally, I would like to conclude by highlighting the fact that the process of mediation was the best option for this case, however, since the parties of the case had a different mindset, culture, background, and many more factors, they could never conclude, and the whole essence of the mediation was a waste of time and energy.  

    REFERENCES

    [1] BBC, “Timeline: Ayodhya holy site crisis”, Bbc (Apr. 18, 2020, 4:06 PM) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11436552. 

    [2] Press Trust of India, “BMAC to start the process to move SC to stake a claim on the debris of demolished Babri mosque”, Business Standard (Apr. 18, 2020, 4:11 PM) https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/bmac-to-start-process-to-move-sc-to-stake-claim-on-debris-of-demolished-babri-mosque-120020601964_1.html.

    [3] ET Bureau, “Trust to use VHP’s mandir design”, Economic Times (Apr. 18, 2020, 4:14 PM) https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/trust-to-use-vhps-mandir-design/articleshow/73974852.cms

    [4] Aman Sharma, “Nyas chief Nritya Gopal Das named chairman of Ram Janmabhoomi Trust”, Economic Times (Apr. 18, 2020, 4:16 PM) https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/nyas-chief-nritya-gopal-das-named-chairman-of-ram-janmabhoomi-trust/articleshow/74212812.cm

    [5] Panjak Shah & Arshad Afzaal Khan, “Uttar Pradesh: Ram Lalla’s idol shifted to its new abode after 28 years”, Times of India (Apr. 18, 2020, 4:18 PM) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/uttar-pradesh-ram-lallas-idol-shifted-to-its-new-abode-after-28-years/articleshow/74820121.cms.   

    [6] ET Bureau,  “Ayodhya  case  court-appointed  mediation   panel  submits the report  to  sc   In  sealed  cover”; ECONOMIC TIMES (Apr. 18,  2020,  6:00 PM) https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ayodhya-case-court-appointed-mediation-panel-submits-report-to-sc-in-sealed-cover/articleshow/71619763.cms?from=mdr

    [7] K. Raveendran  “Ayodhya  mediation  was  ordained  to  fail  and  its  award  would  have  been  open  to  legal challenge”, NATIONAL HERALD OF INDIA (Apr. 17, 2020,  8:00) https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/ayodhya-mediation-was-ordained-to-fail-and-its-award-would-have-been-open-to-legal-challenge


    BY ASTHA KESHARWANI | INSTITUTE OF LAW, NIRMA UNIVERSITY

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