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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Babri demolition: SC to decide today if Advani, Joshi and Bharti will face trial

The Supreme Court will give decision on a CBI petition that wants criminal conspiracy charge against the leaders in Babri demolition case to be restored.

india Updated: Apr 19, 2017 09:01 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A mob of right-wing Hindu activists brought down the Babri mosque  in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, sparking communal riots that left more than 3,000 people dead.
A mob of right-wing Hindu activists brought down the Babri mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, sparking communal riots that left more than 3,000 people dead.(AFP file photo)

The Supreme Court will on Wednesday decide if senior leaders of the ruling BJP, including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, should be tried for conspiring to bring down the 16th century Babri mosque.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has petitioned the court for restoring criminal conspiracy charges against these leaders for the demolition of the Mughal-era mosque on December 6, 1992 by a Hindu mob which sparked one of India’s worst communal riots that left more than 3,000 people dead.

A bench of justice PC Ghose and justice RF Nariman will pronounce the verdict at around 10.30am. Justice Nariman, who had termed the protracted legal battle as evasion of justice, has authored the judgment.

During the previous hearing, the bench had indicated ordering a time-bound day-to-day trial, to be completed preferably within two years as the case hasn’t progressed in the past 25 years.

The court had hinted at reviving the criminal conspiracy charge that were dropped on technical grounds 16 years ago.

The mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya was demolished by “kar sevaks” or supporters of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Many Hindus believe that god Ram was born at the spot where Babur, the first Mughal emperor, had built the mosque. The disputed site, comprising 2.7 acres, remains India’s most potent religious flashpoint.

There were two sets of cases. The first involved unnamed “kar sevaks” and a Lucknow special court is trying the case.

The second set relates to several BJP leaders, including Advani, Joshi, Bharti and then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh. A Rae Bareli court is hearing the case in which these leaders and others are charged with making inflammatory speeches that provoked the kar sevaks to pull down the mosque.

A Lucknow court had set aside charges of criminal conspiracy against the senior BJP leaders on technical grounds.

“One party cannot take advantage of a technical defect. We need to do justice in cases like these,” the Supreme Court had said on the last hearing in response to the BJP leaders’ opposition to the transfer.

“The accused can easily contest the conspiracy charges made by the CBI in the court but no one can be allowed to go scot-free due to technical glitches,” it said.

The top court was also unhappy with the tardy progress of the trial in Rae Bareli. Only 57 witnesses have deposed so far.

In Lucknow, where 47 “kar sevaks” are facing trial, 185 witnesses have been examined, with 800 more to go.

The SC indicated it may shift the trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.

The CBI said it was not averse to clubbing the two trials.

The central investigating agency’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.

“The impugned order of the Allahabad high court upholding the lower court order dropping the charge of conspiracy ought to be set aside,” the CBI told SC.

Senior counsel KK Venugopal, representing Advani, 89, and the other leaders, contested the CBI plea. He said the leaders were old now, and reopening the case would require fresh cross-examination of witnesses.

But the bench disagreed. “In the interest of doing justice, the Supreme Court can exercise its power under Article 142 to overcome a couple of procedures that have suffered due to technical glitches.”

First Published: Apr 19, 2017 08:52 IST