Memories of the Union Carbide case came rushing to mind when I read the order in the Ayodhya case by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC) ordering a formal mediation. There, too, a settlement was recorded, but behind the backs of the parties; a settlement in which only the Union of India and Union Carbide were parties and the victims were ignored. The settlement absolved Union Carbide of all criminal and civil liability for a paltry sum of $450 million. Later, due to the protest of the victims, the criminal proceedings were restored and are still going on. Remember, the disaster occurred in 1984.
The SC has learnt from that mammoth mistake. This time, the affected parties participated in the proceedings. Some of them did object to the proposed mediation on the ground that these were “matters of faith” but the Court went ahead and appointed mediators.…
We must thereof assume that inspired by Section 89, the SC has directed the parties to attempt to settle the dispute, leaving both parties to contest the possible terms of the settlement and make it non-binding. We must assume that the Court has exercised its inherent powers under Order LV Rule 6 which says, “Nothing in these rules shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect the inherent powers to make such orders as may be necessary to meet the ends of justice or prevent abuse of the process of the court.”
- The need for constitutional courage: on Ayodhya dispute – By Apoorvanand (Mar 14, 2019, The Hindu)
- The mediation trap – By Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Mar 11, 2019, Indian Express)
- Will Ayodhya Panel Break the Jinx? – By Syed Ali Mujtaba (Mar 11, 2019, Countercurrents)