NEW DELHI: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court today referred the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation. The panel of three mediators will comprise retired Supreme Court judge F.M.I.Kalifulla, who will chair it, spiritualist Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices S.A.Bobde, D.Y.Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S.Abdul Nazeer further ordered that the mediation proceedings will be in-camera, their details will remain confidential, and has placed a ban on the print and electronic media from reporting them.

The mediation will be held in Ayodhya, formerly Faizabad, in Uttar Pradesh.

The mediation process will begin a week from today. A status report of the mediation is to be submitted to the apex court within four weeks. It is to be concluded within the eight-week period granted for the examination of official translations of the oral evidence filed by the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Justice Kalifullah, Retired Supreme Court Justice

Justice Fakkir Mohamed Ibrahim Kalifullah hails from Tamil Nadu, and started practising law in Chennai. He was appointed a judge of the Madras High Court in March 2000, and was later appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir. In April 2012 he was elevated to the Supreme Court, and retired on July 22, 2016.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Spiritual Guru

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living foundation. He made an attempt in 2018 for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute, by holding talks with the leaders of the various parties to the dispute.

He suggested at the time that Muslims should give up their claims on the disputed site, as it was not a place of importance for them.

In an interview with the IANS news agency Shankar said, “Because it’s Lord Ram’s birthplace, there is such a strong feeling connected with the place. Since it’s not that important a place for Muslims, and also because in a place where there is conflict, namaaz (prayer) is not acceptable. Anyway, it is not going to serve the purpose; and when it is not serving the purpose of the other community, then, it should be gifted.”

Shankar had also expressed the view that a formal adjudication of the dispute would create a losing side, which would create discord. Explaining the need for mediation he said, “I want to create a win-win situation, where both communities come together and respect for each is restored, where respect of each is honoured. That is the formula we are suggesting, why not do it?”

Sriram Panchu, Senior Advocate

Sriram Panchu is a senior advocate based in Chennai and founder of The Mediation Chambers, which offers services in mediation. He is president of the Association of Indian Mediators and a director on the board of the International Mediation Institute. He set up India’s first court-annexed mediation centre in 2005, which has played a prominent part in making mediation a part of India’s legal system.