The Supreme Court on Wednesday said parties to the Ram-Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid land dispute case can amicably resolve the matter through mediation if they want to and that it wants day-to-day hearings in the case to be concluded by October 18.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it has received a letter from former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla, who was heading the three-member mediation panel, saying some parties have written to him for resumption of the mediation process.
"There is an ancillary issue. We have received a letter that some parties want to settle the matter by way of mediation," the bench said, adding that they may do so and proceedings before the mediation panel can remain confidential.
The bench said that the day-to-day proceedings in the land dispute case have reached "an advanced stage" and will continue.
The court, however, said the mediation process under the chairmanship of Justice Kalifulla can still continue and proceedings before it will remain confidential.
The bench also comprising Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S A Nazeer, told lawyers from both the sides that it wanted to conclude the day-to-day hearings in the case by October 18 so that judges get almost four-weeks time to write the judgment.
The observation assumes significance due to the fact that CJI Gogoi is set to demit office on November 17.
The apex court on August 6 had commenced day-to-day proceedings in the sensitive land dispute case as mediation proceedings initiated to find the amicable resolution had failed.
The apex court had taken note of the report of the three-member panel, also comprising founder of the Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, that mediation proceedings, which went on for about four months, did not result in any final settlement and it had to decide the matter pending before it.
The apex court, which on March 8, had referred the matter for mediation, had asked for in-camera proceedings to be completed within eight weeks, but later granted time till August 15 after the panel's earlier report said that the mediators were "optimistic" about an amicable solution.
The top court had fixed the seat for mediation process in Faizabad, 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 the state government.
The court had perused a report about the progress of mediation process till July 18 and said that its contents will remain confidential.
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.