The Supreme Court adjourned for a second time on Thursday a plea challenging a trial court’s decision to drop criminal conspiracy charges top BJP leaders, including veteran leader LK Advani, in the 1992 Babri masjid demolition case.
The top court deferred the hearing by two weeks after Advani’s counsel, senior advocate KK Venugopal said he was busy in another case. The next date of hearing is on April 6.
Other than Advani, senior BJP leaders such as Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh are among the accused in the case.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had charged the suspects with conspiracy but they were cleared by a trial court. The central agency then challenged the verdict in the top court.
The sensitive issue has returned to the limelight after the BJP grabbed power in Uttar Pradesh with a brute majority, reviving hopes among its supporters over the party’s proposed plans to build a Ram temple at the site.
Many Hindus believe that Lord Ram was born at the spot where the first Mughal king Babar had build the mosque. The mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992 by kar sevaks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), sparking communal riots across the country that left more than 3,000 people dead.
The criminal cases in the Babri Masjid case stemmed from two crime files – 197 and 198. Both were filed shortly after the disputed structure was demolished. The CBI, however, filed a combined chargesheet in the case.
FIR number 197 was registered against lakhs of unknown kar sevaks and dealt with the actual demolition of the structure. The accused were charged with serious offences including robbery or dacoity with attempt to murder and promoting enmity between different religious groups. This case was being heard by a Lucknow court, which dropped conspiracy charges against the 13 leaders.
The second, FIR 198, was registered against 12 persons, including Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Ritambhara, who were present at the Ayodhya when the masjid was being demolished. They are accused of promoting enmity, making imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration and statements conducing to public mischief.
This case is also pending before a court in Rae Barelli.