All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Friday said that spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who is a part of the three-member panel to mediate the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, is not neutral about the matter and, hence, it would have been better if the Supreme Court had appointed an impartial person instead. Owaisi's statement came moment's after the top court referred the decade-old Ayodhya dispute case for "permanent mediation" by a three-member panel in the next eight weeks. The panel, which will be headed by former Supreme Court judge FMI Kallifulla, also comprises senior advocate Sriram Panchu.
Speaking to the news agency ANI, Owaisi said, "Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who has been appointed a mediator had earlier made a statement 'if Muslims don't give up their claim on Ayodhya, India will become Syria.' It would've been better if SC had appointed a neutral person".
AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi on SC order in Ayodhya case: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who has been appointed a mediator had earlier made a statement 'if muslims don't give up their claim on Ayodhya,India will become Syria.' It would've been better if SC had appointed a neutral person. pic.twitter.com/PthrJvYYdY— ANI (@ANI) March 8, 2019
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi said that the mediation process will be held at Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh and the process should start within a week from Friday, March 8, 2019. The bench, also consisting of Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer, said the panel should file a progress report of the proceedings within four weeks and complete the process within eight weeks.
The top court said "utmost confidentiality" should be maintained to ensure the success of the mediation process and no media, neither print nor electronic, should report the proceedings. The panel of mediators can co-opt more members in the team, it said. In case of any difficulty, the chairman will inform the apex court registry about it, it added. On Wednesday, the bench had reserved the order after hearing various contesting parties.
Hindu bodies, except Nirmohi Akhara, have opposed the apex court's suggestion to refer the issue for mediation, while Muslim bodies have supported it. The bench had concluded the hearing by asking stakeholders to give the names of possible mediators.
The Supreme Court in its Wednesday hearing observed that the issue is not about 1,500 square feet land, but about religious sentiments. The bench said it was conscious of the gravity and impact of the issue on "public sentiment" and also on the "body politic of the country".
The bench said the judges were aware of the history and seeing that the dispute be resolved amicably. "it is not only about the property. it is about mind, heart and healing, if possible," the bench said. It also stated that it was not appropriate to pre-judge that the mediation would fail and people would not agree with the decision.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the Supreme 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.