Not condoning delay in filing appeal against the Allahabad High Court’s order on dropping conspiracy charge against BJP leader L. K. Advani and others in the Babri Masjid demolition case would cause irreparable loss, the CBI told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The agency contended before a bench of Justices H. L. Dattu and J. S. Khehar that delay in approaching apex court against HC order be condoned and its appeal against Mr. Advani and others be heard on merit.
The bench, however, said that it will decide on condonation of delay only after hearing the contentions of Mr. Advani and others who have sought dismissal of CBI’s plea on the ground of delay. “In normal case we would have done it but in this there is objection from the other side. We will first hear all sides on the issue,” the bench said when senior advocate P. P. Rao, appearing for CBI, pleaded for condonation of 167 days delay.
The bench posted the case for hearing on July 17.
CBI in its affidavit said that if delay is not condoned then it would cause failure of justice as the accused would get away without facing trial for serious offence.
“The delay in filing the SLP is not intentional and deliberate, but bona fide. In case the delay in preferring the SLP is not condoned, it will result in irreparable loss and injury to the State and the failure of justice by letting off the accused without facing trial for serious offences. The purpose of filing of this SLP in public interest would be frustrated,” the affidavit said.
The agency said that delay was caused because the then Solicitor General (SG) had to go through the voluminous documents before approving the draft of appeal and he was also busy in other cases including 2G case.
“Time has been consumed because the appealing party was the state and it had to be circumspective and take all necessary steps before challenging the impugned order of the High Court. The delay has been occasioned because everyone associated with the matter was cautious keeping in mind the sensitivity involved in the matter and wanted to exercise due diligence,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit was filed in response to apex court’s order directing that an affidavit be filed by a senior law officer of the central government after noting that the delay of 167 days was caused because of a law officer.
The affidavit, however, has been filed by Neeraja Gotru, DIG in CBI saying that the then SG has ceased to hold office and there is no officer in office of present SG who is conversant with the facts of the case.
The apex court was hearing CBI’s appeal challenging the verdicts of a special CBI court and the Allahabad High Court dropping conspiracy charge against Mr. Advani, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Murli Manohar Joshi.
The others against whom the charge was dropped included Satish Pradhan, C R Bansal, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Sadhvi Ritambhara, V H Dalmia, Mahant Avaidhynath, R V Vedanti, Param Hans Ram Chandra Das, Jagdish Muni Maharaj, B L Sharma, Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar and Moreshwar Save.
CBI has challenged in the Supreme Court the May 21, 2010 order of the high court, which had upheld a special court’s decision to drop the charge against the leaders.
The High Court had at that time, however, allowed CBI to proceed with other charges against Mr. Advani and others in a Rae Bareily court, under which the case falls.
The May 2010 order of the High Court had said there was no merit in CBI’s revision petition against the May 4, 2001 order of the special court which had directed dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against them.
There are two sets of cases - one against Mr. Advani and others who were on the dais at Ram Katha Kunj in Ayodhya in December 1992 when the Babri Masjid was demolished, while the other case was against lakhs of unknown ‘karsevaks’ who were in and around the disputed structure.
CBI had chargesheeted Mr. Advani and 20 others under sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) of IPC.
It had subsequently invoked charges under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC which was quashed by the special court whose decision was upheld by the high court. Bal Thackeray’s name was removed from the list of accused persons after his death.
While upholding the special court’s order, the High Court had said CBI at no point of time, either during the trial at Rae Bareily or in its revision petition, ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.