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Babri case: SC reserves order on plea against BJP leaders, including Advani

There were two sets of cases relating the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992

india Updated: Apr 06, 2017 23:34 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Babri Masjid,Supreme Court,LK Advani
This file photo shows people shouting and waving banners as they stand on the top of a stone wall and celebrate the destruction of the 16th Century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. (AFP File Photo)

The Supreme Court called on Thursday the delay in the Babri Masjid demolition case an “evasion of justice” and reserved its verdict on the CBI’s plea to restore criminal conspiracy charges against BJP leaders such as LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti.

A bench of justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman said it will consider in the interest of justice ordering a time-bound day-to-day trial, to be completed preferably within two years, since the case hasn’t progressed in the past 25 years.

The Babri mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992, by “kar sevaks” or supporters of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), sparking communal riots across the country that left more than 3,000 people dead.

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 relating the demolition of the structure. 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, being heard in a Rae Bareli court.

The Lucknow court had dropped charges of criminal conspiracy against the senior BJP leaders on technical grounds 16 years ago.

The Supreme Court hinted that it might revive the case. “One party cannot take advantage of a technical defect. We need to do justice in cases like these,” the bench said.

“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.”

Also, the top court was unhappy about the tardy progress of the trial in Rae Bareli, where the BJP and other right-wing Hindu leaders are being prosecuted for delivering speeches that incited a mob to demolish the mosque. Only 57 witnesses have deposed so far there.

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

The top court bench indicated it might 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 rushed to the Allahabad high court, which in May 2010, upheld the lower court’s order.

The agency approached the top court thereafter, but 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,” additional solicitor general NK Kaul told the bench on Thursday on behalf of the CBI.

Senior counsel KK Venugopal, representing Advani and the other leaders, opposed the CBI’s appeal.

He said the leaders are old now, and reopening the case will entail fresh cross-examination of witnesses.

But the bench disagreed with him. “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 06, 2017 18:10 IST