The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi following a petition against the dropping of conspiracy charges against them in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
The petitioner, Haji Mahboob Ahmed, feared the CBI might dilute its stand after the change in government as the ruling BJP rose to prominence in the early 1990s on the back of a campaign to build a Ram temple on the site of the 16th-century mosque.
The court issued the notice as senior counsel Kapil Sibal told them a fresh application had been moved by Ahmed, one of the litigants in the civil case pending over the disputed Ayodhya site, challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict discharging Advani and 19 others of criminal conspiracy.
The CBI moved the apex court on February 18, 2011, nearly nine months after the high court verdict and when the UPA was in power.
A bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra gave the CBI four weeks to prepare its reply and asked Ahmed's counsel to convince the court why the appeal was filed so late. The CBI has already explained the delay.
The apex court had earlier pulled up the CBI for the delay in filing an appeal against the high court verdict that upheld a special court order dropping the conspiracy charge against Advani, who was at the forefront of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and top Sangh leaders.
Besides Advani and Joshi, others accused in the case include Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Hari Dalmiya, Sadhvi Rithambara and Mahant Avaidyanath. Kalyan Singh was the Uttar Pradesh chief minister when the Babri mosque was razed.
Kishore and Avaidyanath have passed away and their names will be taken off. Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray's name was removed from the list of accused after his death.
While upholding the special court's order, the high court had allowed CBI to proceed with other charges against Advani and others in a Rae Bareily court, under whose jurisdiction the case falls.
The May 2010 order of the high court had said there was no merit in CBI's revision petition against the May 4, 2001 order of the special court which had directed dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against them.
There are two sets of cases - one against Advani and others who were on the dais at Ram Katha Kunj in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 when the Babri mosque was demolished, while the other case was against lakhs of karsevaks (volunteers) who were in and around the disputed structure.
CBI had charge sheeted Advani and 20 others under sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc. circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) of the IPC.
It had subsequently invoked charges under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC which was quashed by the special court whose decision was upheld by the high court.
While upholding the special court's order, the high court had said CBI at no point of time, either during the trial at Rae Bareily or in its revision petition, ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.