Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Supreme Court for peaceful burial to world’s longest litigation

The Supreme Court wants to give a "negotiated and peaceful" burial to probably the longest litigation in the world - a fight between Shias and Sunnis over a graveyard since 1878  which continues to simmer despite SC's judgment 32 years ago delineating their worship rights.

From 1878, Shias and Sunnis in Doshipura area of Varanasi have continuously fought — both on the streets and in the courts — over access to eight plots of land and two graves within it. The fight continues despite a 1981 SC judgment, which gave Shias complete worship rights and asked Sunnis not to trespass.

It was not implemented as the court had kept it in abeyance with the parties agreeing to find a settlement through negotiations. A settlement is nowhere in sight even as the Supreme Court has periodically agreed to give negotiations that one last chance.

A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices AR Dave and Vikramjit Sen on Wednesday asked why the dispute, which had been settled through the 1981 judgment and subsequent orders of the apex court, be allowed to linger.

It asked additional advocate general Irshad Ahmed why the court should not dispose of the petition pending for the last 35 years with a direction to the UP government to implement in letter and spirit the judgment and the orders of the apex court.

However, the court was aware of the sensitivity of the issue and the problems in implementing the judgment. The bench acknowledged the need for serious negotiations to arrive at an amicable settlement.

"We know it is a sensitive issue but nothing would be more suitable if the settlement is reached through negotiation and out of court ... At some point of time, the matter should come to an end," it said and directed the state government to inquire into the manner in which the disputed land was being used by the two communities and report back to the court.

The glimpses of tension underneath an uncomfortable calm prevailing at Doshipura was visible in the court as counsel for the two communities differed with each other on the purport of the apex court's earlier directions.

The CJI told the two communities, "You are fighting over what, a graveyard? Don't fight and that alone can bring lasting peace."

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