A Supreme Court judge on Thursday recused himself from hearing appeals pertaining to the dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Justice V Gopala Gowda recused himself from the hearing without citing any reason.
The bench, which also comprised Justice Arun Mishra, said, “Let the matter be placed before the Chief Justice.” The CJI will decide on referring the case to a new bench.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and one Haji Mahboob Ahmed had moved SC against the Allahabad high court’s May 20, 2010, verdict discharging Advani and 19 senior leaders of the BJP and Hindu outfits of criminal conspiracy in the demolition case.
The Allahabad HC had dropped section 120B (criminal conspiracy) under the IPC while upholding a special court’s decision.
The CBI, in its appeal before the apex court, had said that the verdict discharging Advani and other leaders of the offence of criminal conspiracy “is inconsistent with the previous judgment rendered by the Allahabad high court on February 12, 2001”.
The agency had also denied allegations that a change in the government at the Centre would lead to dilution of criminal charges in its prosecution against the accused.
“The decision-making process of CBI is completely independent. All decisions are taken based on correct facts in the light of the law. There is no question of any person, body or institution influencing the decision-making process of CBI or the manner in which it pursues its cases in courts,” the CBI said in September last year. The agency moved the apex court on February 18, 2011, nearly nine months after the Allahabad HC verdict.
Earlier, the apex court had sought responses of Advani, Joshi, Bharti and 16 others on Ahmad’s plea. Besides BJP leaders, the SC had also sought a response from Himachal Pradesh Governor Kalyan Singh, among others. Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore were among the accused who have since died.