The panel of mediators is 'optimistic' about an amicable solution to the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute at Ayodhya, the Supreme Court said on Friday while extending till August 15 the time for completion of the process.
A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said it received a report from former apex court judge Justice F M I Kalifulla, who is the chairman of the panel, in which the committee has sought extension till August 15 to complete the mediation proceedings.
"If the mediators are optimistic about the result and are seeking time till August 15, what is the harm in granting time? This issue has been pending for years and years. Why should we not grant time," the bench, also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, told the counsel appearing for the parties concerned.
"They (panel) have submitted to the court to consider extension of time, which we are inclined," the bench said at the outset.
The apex court had on March 8 referred the matter to the panel of mediators for exploring possibility of an amicable settlement and appointed Justice (retd) Kalifulla, spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate and renowned mediator Sriram Panchu as members of the mediation committee.
During the brief hearing on Friday, the counsel appearing for both the Hindu and Muslim parties expressed confidence over the ongoing mediation proceedings and said they are fully cooperating with the process.
When one of the lawyers raised the issue of translated copies of several documents in vernacular languages, the bench said they have received a report on May 7 from the chairman of the panel and 'the member of the committee have not expressed any such difficulty'.
"We have perused and considered the report of May 7 of Justice F M I Kalifulla indicating the progress made in the mediation proceeding.
"Chairman of the mediation committee has sought extension of time till August 15 to enable the committee to find an amicable solution. We are inclined to grant time till August 15," the bench said, adding that the panel would submit its report to the court after that.
One of the advocates appearing in the matter said the apex court had earlier given eight weeks time to the panel of mediators to complete the proceedings and now nine weeks have gone by.
"We had given eight weeks and the report has come. We are not inclined to tell you what is there in the report of the committee," the bench said.
One of the counsel told the bench that there are around 13,990 pages of documents in several vernacular languages and said some wrong translations have been made which would be a problem.
The counsel also read out the contents of a translated copy of the statement of a witness in the case and said that wrong translation has been made.
"Objections, if any, on the translation may be placed on the record by written note by June 30," the bench said, adding, "Nobody will come in the way of mediation".
In its March 8 order, the top court had asked the panel of mediators to hold in-camera proceedings and complete them within eight weeks.
The Constitution bench had said that it does not find any "legal impediment" to make a reference to mediation for a possible settlement of the dispute.
The top court had fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh, around 7 km from Ayodhya, and said adequate arrangements including the venue of the mediation, place of stay of the mediators, their security, travel should be forthwith arranged by state government so that proceedings could commence immediately.
The bench was told earlier by Hindu bodies, except for Nirmohi Akhara, and the Uttar Pradesh government that they oppose the court's suggestion for mediation. The Muslim bodies had supported the proposal.
Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex 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.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, constructed at the disputed site in the 16th century by Shia Muslim Mir Baqi, was demolished.