Senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others will be tried for conspiring to bring down 16th century Babri mosque in Ayodhya 25 years ago, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.
Accepting the CBI’s plea for restoration of criminal charges against these leaders and others, a bench of justice PC Ghose and justice RF Nariman ordered day-to-day hearing in the case, setting a two-year deadline for the trial to be completed. The case will be heard by a Lucknow court.
However, senior party leader Kalyan Singh, who was the UP chief minister then, is protected since he is a governor. But charges would be framed against him once he ceases to be governor, the court said.
The court revived the charges 16 years after they were dropped by a Lucknow court on technical grounds. The leaders are already being tried for making inflammatory speeches that provoked the kar sevaks to pull down the mosque. The trial is being held in Rae Bareli.
The Mughal-era mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya was demolished by kar sevaks, or supporters of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), on December 6, 1992, sparking one of India’s worst communal riots that left more than 3,000 people dead.
Many Hindus believe that god Ram was born at the spot where the first Mughal emperor Babur built the mosque.
The disputed site, comprising 2.7 acres, remains India’s most potent religious flashpoint.
The demand for the Ram temple has been pivotal to the BJP’s rise. Two years before the mosque was demolished, Advani led a rath yatra across the country, seeking support for the temple to be built at the disputed site.
The 89-year-old party patriarch, who is now side-lined, is credited with reviving the BJP’s political fortunes.
The Supreme Court also shifted the trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
The CBI’s case against 13 leaders, including Advani, fell flat in May 2001 when the Lucknow court dropped the criminal charges. It said there were two FIRs and the one pending before it under the criminal conspiracy section did not name them.
The CBI went to the Allahabad high court, which in May 2010 upheld the lower court’s order. The agency approached the top court almost a year after the high court verdict.