NEW DELHI :
THE Ram Lalla Virajman counsels on Monday informed the Supreme Court it is not participating in the mediation process in the Ayodhya title dispute. The court is currently conducting daily hearings on the matter, which is slated to be completed on or before October 18. On the 33rd day of hearing, senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, representing the Ram Lalla Virajman lawsuit, contended before the court that “we are not participating in the mediation process...there are all kinds of reports going around. We make it very clear, we are not participating.”
The apex court began daily hearings on the matter on August 6. On September 18, during the ongoing hearing in the matter, the apex court had referred to a letter by the former Supreme Court judge Justice F M I Kalifullah-led mediation panel, which efforts were later called off after it failed to resolve the matter amicably. The Chief Justice also told the counsels that, if required, the hearing could possibly take place on Saturday. The court had earlier observed that the parties were free to settle the matter and they could place the report before the court. It also clarified that proceedings will continue to remain confidential. After a discussion with the parties, the top court has fixed the October 18 deadline for wrapping up arguments in the matter. The three-member court-appointed panel, tasked to resolve the vexed issue amicably, has been through many highs and lows since its appointment on March 8.
The panel tried to work out a resolution in the nine weeks time period it existed, till it was disbanded after the Supreme Court commenced hearings on the dispute. The Supreme Court, while appointing the panel headed by former apex court Justice Kalifulla and consisting of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and the noted mediator senior advocate Sriram Panchu, had described it as a positive effort to settle the 70-year-old dispute. The apex court had fixed the seat for the mediation process at Faizabad, which is approximately 7 km from Ayodhya.
In May, the apex court extended the mediation committee on Ayodhya till August 15, 2019. The court had said the members of the committee were not experiencing any difficulty in the mediation process so far, although the Hindu parties had contended that the panel was not moving in a positive direction. The court has refused to divulge details on the mediation so far on the panel’s report dated May 7.
“We will not tell you the progress made, that is confidential”, replied the court to a counsel’s query regarding the mediation. In July, a plea was made by representative of the first plaintiff in the case, Gopal Singh Visharad, who had implored upon the apex court to begin hearings on the case instead of waiting for mediation. A Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had asked for the mediation progress report by July 18. The court had also observed that in case the process of mediation is over by then, the court will begin hearing on the matter based on merit from July 25. On August 2, the apex court announced that mediation had failed, and it would begin day-to-day hearing in the matter on August 6.