Babri Masjid demolition verdict: All 32 accused acquitted
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 accused, including Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders LK Advani, 92, and Murli Manohar Joshi, 86, in the Babri Masjid demolition case almost 28 years after a mob razed the 16th century structure in Ayodhya and triggered some of the deadliest riots since partition that left about 2,000 dead.
CBI judge Surendra Kumar Yadav ordered the acquittal citing a lack of evidence and added the probe agency could not prove the authenticity of the audio and video evidence submitted. He said the demolition was not pre-planned and the accused tried to stop “anti-social” elements who razed the mosque.
Former Union minister Uma Bharti, and Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister at the time of the demolition, are among other accused acquitted in the case. They have tested positive for Covid-19 and are hospitalised and could not attend the court proceedings on Wednesday. Singh’s government was dismissed over the demolition.
Sadhvi Rithambhara, Lallu Singh, Pawan Pandey, Vinay Katiyar, and Champat Rai were the accused present in the CBI court.
The verdict came months after the Supreme Court in November 2019 ruled in favour of building a temple at the 2.77-acre site in Ayodhya where the mosque once stood. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended a ceremony to mark the beginning of the temple construction in August.
WATCH- Babri case: Court acquits Advani & 31 others; says ‘demolition not pre-planned’
Security was heightened on the court premises and no one except the defence, CBI lawyers, and the accused were allowed inside the courtroom. Entry was permitted through only one gate and barricades were put on nearby roads to restrict traffic. The movement of buses from the Kaisarbagh bus stand was diverted and vehicular traffic on the roads near the court building was minimised as part of multi-layered security arrangements.
Supporters of the accused were stopped at the barricades as they started arriving at the court. Journalists were denied access to the court building and most of the shops in the vicinity remained closed.
Lucknow’s police commissioner Sujeet Pandey took stock of security arrangements and policemen used a public address system to urge journalists to stay behind the barricades.
The accused faced charges like criminal conspiracy, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, and unlawful assembly.
Ahead of the verdict, Jai Bhagwan Goyal, 62, an accused who described himself as the international working president of United Hindu Front, said he would not comply with the CBI court’s order to bring a guarantor worth Rs 50,000 with him.
“I am not going to comply with the order for sure as I feel by bringing down the disputed structure, I did no wrong,” Goyal said. “I was among the first to own up that I had a role in demolition.”
Kalyan Singh, who has also served as Rajasthan governor, has said he is proud of his decision denying permission to fire on karsevaks, or Hindu religious volunteers, who razed the mosque.
The CBI took over the demolition case a week after the mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992. Two simultaneous criminal trials in Lucknow and Rae Bareli were conducted until the Supreme Court shifted all cases to Lucknow in 2017. The top court in July last year extended the timeframe for completing the criminal trial by six months and also set a deadline of nine months for the final order.
The nine-month deadline expired on April 19. The Supreme Court on May 8 set the new deadline of August 31 for the judgment. In August, it again extended the deadline till September 30.
CBI produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence during the course of the trial and the special court framed charges against 49 accused. Seventeen of the accused died during the course of the trial.