The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted the Central Bureau of Investigation’s plea to restore criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others in the Babri mosque demolition. A bench of justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman ordered day-to-day hearing in the case and set a two-year deadline for the completion of the trial that has lasted 25 years.
Earlier this month, the CBI had told the court that the BJP leaders were part of a larger conspiracy to demolish the disputed Babri Masjid and the charges, dropped in 2001 by a special court in Lucknow on technical grounds, should be revived.
A Hindu mob demolished the 16th century Babri Masjid on December 2, 1992, demanding the construction of a temple for Lord Ram, who Hindus believe was born at the site in Ayodhya. The demolition of the mosque sparked some of the deadliest riots in India in which thousands were killed.
The case against Advani and other BJP leaders has followed a tortuous path over the years.
Here’s how the case progressed over the years:
December 6, 1992: Two FIRs filed against kar sevaks and Advani, Joshi, Bharti, Singh, Vinay Katiyar and others. FIR (198) against the BJP leaders said, “during the speeches of these leaders, repeated indications (sic: “incitement”) were given to demolish the mosque. As a result, lakhs of kar sevaks attacked and pulled down the disputed structure.”
December 11, 1992: Case against kar sevaks handed over to the CBI, while that against leaders investigated by the state CID in a special court in Rae Bareli
October 5, 1993: CBI files common chargesheet; case against BJP leaders also transferred to the premier probe agency
September 9, 1997: Special judge orders framing of charges against all accused, including Advani
February 2011: Allahabad HC quashes Centre’s 1993 notification by which BJP stalwarts were to be tried by a special court in Lucknow, pointing out a technical flaw in the assignment of cases. Justice Jagdish Bhalla upheld the joint chargesheet, saying the defect was “curable”. Successive Uttar Pradesh governments, however, did nothing to heed the judge’s advice. Petitions filed in the Supreme Court against HC order
May 2001: Case suffers a body blow as the special court in Lucknow drops criminal charges against the 13 BJP leaders on grounds of technicality. Sessions judge Srikant Shukla allows Advani and others to go scot-free, stating there were two FIRs registered and case 198, the one pending before it under the criminal conspiracy section, did not name the BJP leaders
May 2010: Allahabad high court dismisses the CBI’s revision petition challenging the Lucknow special court’s decision to drop criminal charges against BJP leaders
March 31, 2015: The Supreme Court issues notices to Advani and Joshi, following a petition against the dropping of conspiracy charges
April 4, 2017: The Supreme Court hints it may revive criminal conspiracy charges against 13 BJP and other Hindu right-wing leaders that were dropped by the special trial court in Lucknow on technical grounds
April 6, 2017: The CBI argues for a revival of charges against BJP bigwigs, saying they were part of a larger conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid.
April 18, 2017: A bench of justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman accepted CBI’s plea to restore criminal charges against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others and ordered a day-to-day hearing in the case, setting a two-year deadline for the trial to be completed.