If the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry took 17 years to submit its report to the government, two cases relating to the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid are still going on in courts in Lucknow and Rae Bareli for an equal number of years.
Until now, the journey of case numbers 197/92 and 198/92 has been marked by legal wrangles, procedural delays, slow progress and challenges in the Allahabad High Court as well as before the Supreme Court.
The Commission held 68 persons, including bureaucrats and leaders of the Sangh Parivar guilty of bringing the country to the “brink of communal discord” over the Ayodhya issue.
These include the former Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, and the former Union Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, the then U.P. Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh, and others. Of the 68, 16 have since died. Some of them are facing trial in Babri Masjid demolition cases, which have now come to be known as Ayodhya cases. They were investigated first by the U.P. police and then by the CBI in August 1993.
Accepting the recommendation of the panel to establish a criminal justice commission, the government, in the Action Taken Report (ATR) that was tabled along with the report in Parliament on Tuesday, said steps would be taken to expedite the hearing of the cases — case no. 197/92, which was an FIR against lakhs of unknown kar sewaks, case no. 198/92, an FIR against eight accused pending in the special court in Rae Bareli as well as 47 other cases also pending in the special court in Lucknow.
Commenting on the status of the Ayodhya cases, a CBI spokesman said on Tuesday that the case in the special court in Rae Bareli had reached the prosecution stage while the trial in respect of 48 other cases in the special court in Lucknow was stayed by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court. “A revision petition of the CBI in this regard is also pending before the Lucknow Bench of the High Court,” the spokesman said.
Eight BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders figure as accused in the case pending before the special court in Rae Bareli. They are: Mr. Advani, Mr. Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Ritambhara. They have been charged under Sections 153 (A), 153 (B), 505, 147 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code. The CBI is in the process of presenting witnesses before the special court in Rae Bareli.
The embarrassment for the Congress is the listing of the former Union Textiles Minister and Gujarat leader, Shankersinh Vaghela.
Mr. Vaghela quit the BJP and joined the Congress in 1998 but he was a BJP leader at the time of the masjid demolition.