India’s SC favours out-of-court settlement for Ayodhya dispute


NEW DELHI: The new Hindu hardline chief minister of Uttar Pradesh promised on Tuesday to work impartially for all communities and the Supreme Court, in an apparently unrelated move, offered him a chance to show his constitutional credentials, suggesting that the Ayodhya dispute be settled amicably between Hindus and Muslims, preferably without recourse to a hitherto elusive verdict from the apex court.

Two days after taking over as chief minister of India’s most populous and communally sensitive state, Yogi Adityanath made an appearance in the Lok Sabha, where he is still a member, and vowed to work for development of all sections by creating a “new structure” of progress.

Supporters of the Muslim-baiting politician thumped the desks as he entered the house when a debate was under way on the finance bill. As he arrived amid chants of “Jai Shri Ram”, there was a brief interruption in the speech by opposition member Rammohan Naidu, who stopped to extend greetings to the new UP chief minister.

New UP chief minister vows to work for all communities

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also extended her greetings, as did a number of other members to the member from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

“You are welcome. You are the chief minister of UP and along with that you are a member of this house,” the speaker said while inviting Mr Adityanath to speak.

The name of the 44-year-old lawmaker, who arrived in Delhi on Tuesday morning to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top BJP leaders, was added to the list of speakers after he came to the house.

Mr Adityanath, who spoke on the bill after Mr Naidu, laid emphasis on allaying apprehensions over his taking over in UP. “In Uttar Pradesh, the new model of development will be based on ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’,” he said, echoing Mr Modi’s slogan for everyone’s development without fear or favour.

“My government will be for everyone, not specifically for any caste or community… We will work for the development of all sections and castes and create a new structure of progress,” Mr Adityanath said.

“UP will be the state, which our honourable prime minister has dreamt of, a corruption-free state, a state free of anarchy. It would be an incident free-state,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court suggested an out-of-court settlement of the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya, saying that issues of “religion and sentiments” can be best resolved through talks.

Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, a Sikh, also offered to mediate even as the bench headed by him suggested that the parties to the dispute adopt a “give a bit and take a bit” approach for a meaningful and sincere negotiations to resolve the issue.

In 2010, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court controversially ruled for a three-way division of the disputed 2.77 acres area at the site in UP.

The three-judge bench, by a majority of 2 to 1, had said the land be partitioned equally among three parties, the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the ‘Ram Lalla’ (Infant Ram).

The Supreme Court bench said: “These are issues of religion and sentiments. These are issues where all the parties can sit together and arrive at a consensual decision to end the dispute. These issues are best decided jointly. All of you may sit together and hold a cordial meeting,” the bench, also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S.K. Kaul, said.

The observations were made after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy mentioned the matter seeking urgent hearing, saying that it had been over six years after the high court decided the civil appeal and that it needed to be heard at the earliest.

The BJP legislator told the court that he had approached the Muslim community members who favoured judicial decision in the contentious matter.

“You [Mr Swamy] must make fresh attempts to arrive at a consensual decision. If required, you must choose a mediator to end the dispute. If the parties want me [CJI] to sit with mediators chosen by both the sides for negotiations, I am ready to take up the task. Even the services of my brother judges can be availed for the purpose,” the CJI said.

The apex court said that it might also appoint a principal negotiator if the parties wanted and asked Mr Swamy to consult the parties and inform it about their decision on an amicable resolution of the matter on March 31.

Any decision leading to the construction of a temple at the site of the destroyed Babri Masjid will inevitably shore up Mr Modi’s chances for a second term in the 2019 elections, and for which Mr Adityanath’s known penchant for communal violence will have to be kept in check, analysts say.

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