Supreme Court Orders Ayodhya Mediation: Here's What This Massive Step Could Mean For The Decades-old Issue

Written By Ankit Prasad | Mumbai | Published:

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a court-monitored mediation in the Ayodhya Ram Mandir case, appointing a three-member panel and asserting an 8-week deadline, with a progress report to be submitted at the midway point - i.e. 4 weeks.

Here's what the Supreme Court's order means:

1. Potential resolution before elections:

The 8-week deadline would expire on May 8, where, as per the events of 2014, the Lok Sabha elections would not yet have concluded. This is particularly significant because the decades-old Ayodhya issue also has enormous political ramifications. Construction of a Ram Mandir at the Ram Janmabhoomi site is a 2014 election manifesto promise of the BJP, whereas the Congress has attempted to slow down the Supreme Court's hearings in the case, with Kapil Sibal appearing as the counsel of one of the parties and telling the apex court to conclude the matter only after the 2019 elections.

2. It's the closest we've got to a definitive solution:

The 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict dividing the relevant land between the three parties left the matter at an untenable spot. There has been unending polemics over various aspects of the case with the most recent being the contention that the matter being heard in the Supreme Court is a title suit - i.e. only dealing with the land - versus other contentions - Dr Subramanian Swamy's for instance, that the building of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya is in accordance with his fundamental right to pray. With the Supreme Court appointing a panel and giving it a deadline and other parameters, the various claimants have no choice but to come to the negotiating table and resolve matters, many of which have been communal sore points for a long period of time, offering a chance for 'healing' as the bench had expressed on Wednesday.

3. Puts an end to the politicking:

Ever since the Supreme Court deprioritised the case at the end of 2018, there have been many statements and calls-to-action issued by pro-Mandir groups, as well as the other side, calling for the government to take legislative action to resolve the issue. The most regularly-mentioned solution is an ordinance, though the government has made clear that it would await the Supreme Court's decision in the ongoing case before taking a step. Political parties have entered this debate as well, with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray taking a train-full of Shiv Sainiks to Ayodhya and demanding an immediate ordinance.

4. There have been attempts at mediation before, but not like this:

Since 1990, there have been seven attempts at various levels to mediate over the matter, including by former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, under former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, organisations such as the Nirmohi Akhara, and most recently, by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who is incidentally also on the most recent panel of mediators. However, the latest mediation is a court-monitored mediation and has a deadline along with other parameters in place.