SC says resolve Ayodhya dispute outside court; mixed reactions follow

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Supreme Court on Ayodhya Ram Mandir dispute
Supreme Court on Ayodhya Ram Mandir dispute

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Tuesday favoured an amicable settlement to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya and offered to act as mediator, which was welcomed by the BJP but ruled out by the Babri Masjid Action Committee and others.

The apex court's suggestion for a negotiated settlement to the longstanding dispute on the land title in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya attracted mixed reactions. 

"These are issues of religion and sentiments. All of you may sit together and hold a cordial meeting," Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, who headed the bench hearing the matter, said.

Chief Justice Khehar said the negotiated settlement is the best course for resolving the dispute and offered himself or other members of the bench to act as mediators.

The Bharatiya Janata Party -- ruling both at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh -- heartily welcomed it but the Babri Masjid Action Committee and the Muslim Personal Law Board, which are prominent parties to the legal battle, dismissed an out-of-court settlement. 

The court was hearing BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's plea for constituting a bench to hear a batch of petitions challenging a 2010 Allahabad High Court order on the matter.

The 2010 order said there should be partition of the disputed land in Ayodhya between parties to the dispute. 

The apex court's observation comes after BJP leader Yogi Adityanath -- a strong advocate of building the Ram temple at the disputed site -- was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday. 

The BJP, which included the construction of the Ram temple in its poll manifesto, won 312 seats in the 403-member assembly in the February-March election. 

The BJP said friendly negotiations was the best way to resolve the dispute while Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, another BJP leader, said the court's advice may pave the way for the temple's construction.

BJP MP Vinay Katiyar said the court's suggestion, along with the fact that the BJP had come to power in Uttar Pradesh, will have a positive effect in settling the dispute. 

On the other hand, Babri Masjid Action Committee convenor Zafaryab Jilani as well as All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) member and AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi virtually ruled out an out-of-court settlement.

"An amicable solution is impossible. This has to be dealt in the court itself. If the court passes any order to that effect (amicable solution), we will think about future course of action," said Jilani.

"We have faith if the CJI himself mediates or nominates a team of Supreme Court judges or court itself hears the matter. But we are not willing to accept an out-of-court settlement," he added.

"Several rounds of talks on earlier occasion have failed to yield result. That is why the AIMPLB had decided that it will not go for any more talks," Owaisi said, adding that the "case was about the (land) title which the Allahabad High Court wrongly decided as a partnership case".

Owaisi said he hoped the apex court will decide other cases pending since the demolition of the Babri Msjid in December 6, 1992, including conspiracy charges against prominent BJP leaders like L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist too expressed dismay over the court's observations. 

"All these years, there was no possibility of an out-of-court settlement; that is why the matter is in the Supreme Court. 

"In a political situation where the government at the Centre and the state (UP) is committed to pushing only one side of the case, how can the court expect an amicable settlement," said CPI-M leader Brinda Karat. 

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said a recurrence of the 1992-like situation was a possibility and depended upon the stand taken by the Yogi Adityanath government in the state. 

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said the apex court should stay away from matters of faith and said that only two parties -- the Narendra Modi government and the Adityanath government -- had the power to decide about building of the temple.