New Delhi: Outgoing Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde wanted Bollywood mega star Shah Rukh Khan to be a part of the mediation panel, set up by the Supreme Court in March 2019, to resolve the Ayodhya title dispute, senior advocate Vikas Singh said Friday.
Singh, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), was speaking at the virtual farewell organised for CJI Bobde, who retired Friday.
Singh was mentioning the landmark judgments pronounced by Justice Bobde at the event, and noted that Bobde was a part of the bench that delivered the verdict in the Ayodhya title dispute case on 9 November 2019.
Talking about this judgment, Singh said, “While on the Ayodhya dispute, I must give out one secret between me and Justice Bobde.”
“While he was in the initial stages of the hearing, he was very firm of the view that the Ayodhya dispute should be settled by mediation… While the mediation process was on — and just see the commitment of Justice Bobde for the mediation — he asked me whether Shah Rukh Khan would be interested in participating in this mediation since he knew I knew Shah Rukh Khan’s family.”
Singh went on, “I discussed this matter with Shah Rukh Khan and he was more than willing to be a part of this mediation because he felt that the best way in which Hindu-Muslims can live peacefully in this country is that there should be complete religious harmony.”
“He (Khan) suggested, in fact, that the foundation stone of the Hindu temple should be laid by some prominent Muslims and vice-versa — the foundation stone of the mosque be laid by some prominent Hindus. Unfortunately, the mediation did not go ahead,” he added.
In a unanimous decision, a five-judge constitution bench led by the then chief justice of India (CJI), Ranjan Gogoi, cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, and directed the Centre to allot a five-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.
Along with Justice Gogoi, the bench also comprised Justices Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.
However, before continuous hearings began in the Ayodhya case, a mediation effort by a court-appointed panel was also undertaken.
The panel comprised former Supreme Court judge Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, spiritualist Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.
When the mediation was unsuccessful, the Supreme Court heard the matter from August 2019 and reserved its verdict in the case on 16 October 2019.
‘Social media interprets our actions’
During the farewell, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said that “it is a very sad day that even before we spent enough time with a CJI there is a new CJI.”
“That is why I have been suggesting that CJI should be there for 3 to 4 years,” he added.
Meanwhile, Justice Bobde shared his experience of being the CJI, saying, “When I took over as the CJI, I did not understand the complexity of the task. It takes some time to understand the complexities and there is no way around them.”
He also emphasised on the need to pay “a lot of attention to communication and relationship of the bar and the bench,” saying, “I do not wish to criticise anybody. I’m sure there are people at fault on both sides, but the attitude and the mutual respect that is necessary for excellent functioning of the judicial system is sometimes wanting in the narrative of courts.”
“There is something else which comes in the way sometimes, but that is a large subject, which we will need to address later, and that is how the media and the social media interprets our actions,” he added.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)