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Mediation in the Ayodhya Case: An Appreciated Attempt

The communal rift between Hindus and Muslims has long been in effect since the colonial rule that ended in the country being portioned into two: Pakistan, a Muslim dominated state, and India, a Hindu dominated state. The two neighbors are yet to recover from the horrors of partition with lives lost and families torn apart in the struggle to find a home. Those Muslims who set down their roots in India, a secular country according to the Preamble to the Constitution, have long been in a battle of their own – a battle for safety and identity. India is and has been predominantly secular, allowing for all religions to coexist harmoniously but the deep-seated animosity between Hindus and Muslims, the two most dominant religions in India, stem from an ancient rivalry set ablaze by partition but yet to put out.

Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, as believed by the Hindus is a city located in Uttar Pradesh. The site was a place of Hindu worship but during the rule of the Mughal King Babur, a mosque known as the Babri Masjid was constructed at Ayodhya replacing the temple that was once there. Soon after independence, radical Hindu groups began demanding that the mosque be demolished, and a temple be constructed on the land instead and political groups such as the Hindu Mahasabha rose in popularity with promises of making it happen. In 1992, a rally was held outside the Babri Masjid and filled with religious passion, the mob stormed into the mosque and destroyed it. The demolition of the Babri Masjid led to a rise in communal riots and terrorist activities with groups from both religions firmly believing that the land should be theirs and finally, in 2019, the Supreme Court heard the matter and proclaimed a decision granting the land to a trust that would oversee the building of a Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Ram.

However, before the matter was heard and adjudicated upon by the Supreme Court of India, the matter, due to its personal and delicate nature, was referred to mediation in the hope that it would provide a quick and effective settlement[1]. The Supreme Court, for the first time since the long-drawn struggle began, ordered that the matter be referred to court monitored mediation to offer a resolution within eight weeks. Mediation is a process by which a mediator facilitates a conversation between the parties, thus allowing them to work together and communicate openly and honestly rather than them fighting a legal battle against each other in court. In a mediation process, the parties talk about their situation and try to convey their problems and feelings to the other party and this process ensures that the parties remain amicable and cooperate to maintain a healthy discussion and a respectable relationship with each other. Since mediation allows for cooperation rather than antagonisms, in this way, and considering the already tense relationship between Hindus and Muslims in India, the Supreme Court decided to send the Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid dispute to mediation to heal the strained relationship[2]. The Supreme Court’s decision to do this was backed by a proven fact that litigation is both an enormous strain on the judicial system and on the social cohesion in the country. Especially with a dispute of this magnitude, the consequences of a long-drawn litigation battle in court would be grave for the country as seen by the massive riots across the nation and the numerous death threats sent to advocates and judges participating in the matter[3]. In advising the matter to be taken forward by mediation, the Supreme Court was trying to avoid religious polarization in the country which would be caused by a judgement pronouncing a “winner” and a “loser”.  Furthermore, mediation also seemed like a more suitable option because of its freedom in procedure and its ability to bring about creative solutions that both parties could compromise and agree to rather than the right-based structure of litigation[4]. For all these reasons stated above, mediation seemed like the most practical solution in a dispute such as the Ayodhya case where emotions ran high and religious fervour was at its peak.

Even though the decision by the Court was more than welcomed, especially with the new pro-Alternate Dispute Resolution stance in India, there were critics who believed that the process would be futile because of the religious nature of the dispute that would deter parties from budging from their hardened positions and points of view. This scepticism turned true when the mediation process did not lead to a resolution, but one mustn’t dwell on that because not all disputes end in resolution. Rather, one must focus on the care and consideration taken by the Supreme Court in referring the matter to mediation. The Court’s concern with preserving the social, moral and religious fabric of the society as well as maintaining coexistence between Hindu and Muslim communities in the country has brought mediation to the forefront of alternate dispute resolution and has ensured that the ideals enshrined in the Preamble ring true in India.



[1] Dr. Auriol Weigold, The Ayodhya Dispute Resolution, Futuredirections, (Dec. 10, 2019, 5:23 PM),

[2] PTI, Ayodhya Dispute Mediation Settlement conditional, can’t be Binding: SC, EconomicTimes, (Nov. 9, 2019, 6:50 PM),

[3] PTI, Ayodhya Case: Court-appointed Mediation Panel Submits Report to SC in Sealed Cover, EconomicTimes, (Oct. 16, 2019, 10:05 PM),

[4] Ashish Kumar, Mediation in Ayodhya Dispute: Possibilities for Collaborative Resolution, MediateIndia, (Apr. 19, 2019, 8:18 PM),

  • Ayodhya Dispute
  • Mediation
  • Supreme Court

BY : Rachel Thomas

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