Seventeen years and 48 extensions later, the Liberhan Commission probing the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on Tuesday submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram was also present when Justice (retd) MS Liberhan presented his commission of inquiry report "set up in connection with the Ram Janambhoomi - Babri Masjid incident", said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
The report in four volumes with an extensive set of annexures will now be further processed by the home ministry.
Chidambaram told reporters that he had not yet got the report. "We would comment after getting it. It would be forwarded to the home ministry during the course of the day."
Liberhan, former chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, who had been under attack for taking so long to complete his investigation, told a TV channel: "I didn't have any pressure from anybody. We are relieved and independent today."
The Liberhan Commission got 48 extensions after it was set up within 10 days of the demolition of the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya on Dec 6, 1992 by Hindu groups. The demolition triggered widespread communal riots in the country and led to the loss of many lives.
The panel to investigate what led to the demolition was to submit its report by March 16, 1993. But it sought repeated extensions to complete its investigation. The last three-month extension was given in March this year.
One of the country's longest running inquiry commissions, it recorded statements of scores of politicians from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including senior leader LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh and now Bharatiya Jan Shakti party chief Uma Bharati. Several members of the Congress and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were also questioned.
Appointed by former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao to ward off criticism against his government for having failed to protect the mosque, the commission finished hearing its last witness Kalyan Singh in August 2005.
The commission has apparently closely studied the arrangements made on the roof of Ram Katha Kunj from where top BJP leaders addressed kar sevaks (volunteers) on that fateful day.
It has also looked at why a stage was set up for them (on the rooftop) in the first place and that too at a spot a fair distance away from the place where the Supreme Court permitted the token pilgrimage to take place.