New Delhi: As per media reports the Supreme Court of India on Wednesday revived criminal conspiracy charge against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Union Minister Uma Bharti and others in the December 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case and shifted the trial from a Rai Bareilly magistrate’s court to a Special CBI court in Lucknow.
Allowing the CBI’s appeal, a Bench of Justice PC Ghose and Justice Rohinton Nariman said the proceedings regarding framing of charges be completed in four weeks.
Using its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, it clubbed the two cases pending trial at Rai Bareilly and Lucknow and ordered a day-to-day trial by Special CBI court in Lucknow.
While the high-profile leaders were being tried without any conspiracy charge at Rai Bareilly, ordinary “karsevaks” faced conspiracy charge at Lucknow for demolishing the disputed structure at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.
Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, who was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the demolition, is also among the accused.
The court ordered that no adjournments would be granted under normal circumstances and the trial judge hearing the case could not be transferred.
The trial had to conclude in two years, the Bench said.
The Bench had on April 6 reserved its order on the CBI’s plea to revive conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others in the December 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
The Bench had said that it was still hanging fire even after 25 years. It termed the inordinate delay as “evasion of justice”.
Sixteen years after a Lucknow Special Court dropped the charge of criminal conspiracy against the senior BJP and VHP leaders in the case on technical grounds, the saffron leaders are in for serious legal trouble.
“People cannot be discharged like this on a technical ground,” the Bench had said on March 6 expressing its dismay over the inordinate delay in the case.
“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 behalf of the CBI.
On behalf of Advani and Joshi, senior counsel KK Venugopal had opposed the possible shifting of trial and revival of criminal conspiracy, saying it would violate the fundamental right to life and liberty as also the right to fair and speedy trial.
Venugopal had said recording of evidence was nearing an end and 183 witnesses would have to be recalled for cross-examination. It would require conducting the entire proceedings afresh, he contended.
In the Rae Bareilly case, the court has examined 57 witnesses and another 105 are to be examined. In the Lucknow case against “karsevaks”, 195 witnesses had been examined by the trial court and the testimonies of 800 more were yet to be examined.
The CBI had challenged the 2010 Allahabad High Court order upholding the trial to discharge senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and others.
One Haji Mahboob Ahmad, president of Mahafiz-Masjid-Wa-Maqabir, too had moved the SC claiming that “with the BJP in power, the CBI may not press for revival of criminal conspiracy charge”.
The case against Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore has abated following their death.
Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh was Uttar Pradesh chief minister when the disputed structure at Ayodhya was demolished by thousands of “karsevaks” despite the state government’s undertaking given to the top court to protect it.
The CBI had registered two sets of cases relating the demolition of the 16th century disputed structure in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. The first one was against unnamed ‘karsevaks’ that was being tried in a court in Lucknow, while the second one involved the BJP and VHP leaders who were being tried at a Rae Bareli court.
The CBI filed a composite chargesheet in both the cases and the state government issued a notification transferring the Rae Bareli case to Lucknow.
The Allahabad High Court quashed the notification in 2001 on the grounds that the HC was not consulted. The state did not re-issue the notification rectifying the legal lacunae.
The same year, a Lucknow Special Court dropped criminal charges against the 13 leaders on the grounds that there were two FIRs and the one pending before it under criminal conspiracy section did not name them.