The Supreme Court on Tuesday suggested that the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya should be resolved outside court. The apex court was hearing an urgent plea filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy to take up the matter that has been pending for the past six years.

The bench, led by Chief Justice JS Khehar, said the subject was “sensitive and sentimental” and asked Swamy to sort out the dispute through negotiations between the parties concerned. “First sit together and sort it out. Both sides employ moderators and hold meetings,” Khehar said.

The Supreme Court will appoint a mediator if the out-of-court negotiations fail, the bench said. The court told Swamy to inform the bench about the developments in the negotiations on or before March 31.

The court’s suggestion received mixed reactions. Veteran BJP leader LK Advani welcomed it, saying, “All involved should come to a consensus.” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath also echoed his opinion. “A settlement can be reached if parties decide to sit together and reach a consensus. Whatever help is required from the government’s end will surely be extended,” he said.

While Union minister Uma Bharti welcomed the Supreme Court’s suggestion, Babri Masjid Action Committee Convenor Zafaryab Jilani pointed out that negotiations had failed earlier, and an out of court settlement was not possible. Other Union ministers, including Mahesh Sharma and PP Choudhary, also hailed the apex court’s recommendation. Both said the government had long been encouraging negotiations.

However, Harishankar Jain – an advocate of the Hindu Mahasabha and a petitioner in the case – said negotiations were unacceptable. “There can be no compromise on this issue. We will not give even an inch of land. The court should go ahead with a speedy trial in the case,” he said, according to India TV.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of India(Marxist) Sitaram Yechury noted that the dispute was taken to court only after the parties involved failed to resolve it through talks.

Meanwhile, Swamy mooted his own idea to resolve the dispute. The place where Lord Ram was born cannot be changed. Namaz can be done anywhere,” he told News18. He suggested that the mosque be built across the Saryu river.

On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished by lakhs of Hindu karsevaks (volunteers) gathered at the site. Senior BJP leaders such as LK Advani and Uma Bharati were present at the site. The incident triggered communal riots across the country. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had said that Hindus had the right to worship at the disputed land since Lord Ram was believed to be born there. However, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of the high court order.