India’s apex court has suggested out-of-court settlement in the Ram Temple issue. Can India find a solution to this dispute that has been raising its ugly head at regular intervals, ahead of every election, and polarising communities and causing communal riots?
The Supreme Court of India, on Tuesday, asked all parties involved in the Ram Mandir issue to settle the matter out of court.
The Chief Justice of India, JS Khehar, even offered to mediate in the settlement issue, should the need arise.
“It is an issue of sentiment and religion. First, sit together and sort out. Both sides employ moderators and hold meetings,” said Chief Justice JS Khehar, while hearing an urgent appeal from senior BJP leader, Subramanian Swamy.
“If the parties want me to sit between mediators chosen by both sides for negotiations, I am ready,” the CJI said. He added that if required, the court could also choose a principal negotiator to help find a solution.
The matter will come up again in the Supreme Court on March 31.
Political Activity Intensifies
The suggestion from the apex court has intensified the political activities, with different players taking positions akin to their political standing and interests.
Since the swearing in of Yogi Adityanath as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the Ayodhya issue has gained importance. The speculation on Ram Mandir is gaining impetus. Both the centre and the state are ruled by the BJP, which has spearheaded the temple movement since the mid 1980s.
Reacting to the court’s observation, Yogi, who is a strong proponent of creating a Ram Mandir on the disputed site in Ayodhya, welcomed what the court said. “Both sides can sit down to find an amicable solution. The government is ready to extend any cooperation to facilitate dialogue.”
Similarly, Union minister and senior BJP leader, Mahesh Sharma echoed Adityanath’s sentiments, saying that the centre would love to mediate between the two sides.
Swamy suggested that the Ram temple should be built on ‘Ram Janmabhoomi’ (birthplace of Ram at the disputed site), while the mosque can be constructed on the other side of the Sarayu river to resolve the dispute, which has defied resolution.
Muslim organisations, which are a party to the case, are sceptical about the Supreme Court’s suggestion. They point out that attempts at out-of-court settlement in the past have been unsuccessful.
“We are ready with the Chief Justice (of India) mediating… We trust him. We are also ready, if he nominates a team for hearing the matter. But, out-of-court settlement is not possible. If SC passes an order in this regard, we will look into it,” said Zafaryab Jilani, convenor of the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC).
Jilani said that going by the past experience, he feels that the matter cannot be settled outside the court and referred to unsuccessful negotiation attempts made during the tenures of former prime ministers, Chandra Shekhar and PV Narasimha Rao. So far, nine such attempts have been made in the dispute.
The Secretary General of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Maulana Wali Rahmani said, “We have trust in the Chief Justice and if he is there we are ready for talks.”
Is out-of-court settlement right?
Is the Supreme Court right in suggesting out-of-court settlement?
There have been several instances when the apex court resorted to this practice to settle title disputes or other issues pertaining to either civil or economic domains.
A few political leaders offer a counter point. “Talks couldn’t sort out the matter, that’s why it reached court. The dispute went to the court because there was no settlement. The main issue is to ascertain who the owner of the land is. There is a dispute and the court has to adjudicate,” senior CPI (M) leader, Sitaram Yechury observed.
The issue will keep everyone on their toes with political parties playing their calling cards, stakeholders forcefully arguing their views and TPR hungry 24×7 TV channels flashing breaking news.