Babri case: SC verdict on CBI plea against dropping of conspiracy charges today

A Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton F. Nariman will on Wednesday (April 19) pronounce judgment on a CBI appeal against the dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against prominent BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, including L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition cases.

While reserving its judgment on April 6, the Bench had indicated that it would order a joint trial in a Lucknow Court after reviving criminal conspiracy charges against the leaders in connection with the razing down of the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 by kar sevaks.

Noting that the pendency of the cases in Lucknow and Rae Bareilly courts itself indicates “evasion of justice”, the court had proposed to invoke its extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to transfer the pending trial in a Rae Bareilly Magistrate court and club it with criminal proceedings in the Lucknow CBI Court against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks”.

The court indicated that it will order the CBI Court to conduct a time-bound trial and complete it in two years. So far 195 witnesses have been examined in the Lucknow case while a whopping 800 witnesses remain to testify.

In Rae Bareilly, 57 witnesses have been examined while 105 wait their turn in court. Mr. Advani, Mr. Joshi and six other politicians were originally accused in the Rae Bareilly case for giving provocative speeches.

"Kindly notice that this is a matter of 1992. Twenty-five years have passed. Our answer is have it on a day-to-day basis and finish it off in the next two years," Justice Ghose had observed. Justice Nariman at one point orally remarked how “many of the accused are dead and some will die now”.

A Special Court had in May 2001 dropped the criminal conspiracy charges against Mr. Advani and top BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, including Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Uma Bharti among others. The Allahabad HC had dismissed the CBI plea to revive the conspiracy charges in May 2010, following which the agency moved the Supreme Court in appeal in February 2011.

If Lucknow and Rae Bareli are pari materia, the conspiracy charge against them should revive and both cases be tried jointly,” Justice Nariman had observed.

Appearing for CBI, Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul submitted the Allahabad HC had itself confirmed there was prima facie evidence of conspiracy.

Senior advocate K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Mr. Advani and Mr. Joshi, objected to the Supreme Court cannot using its powers under Article 142 to disrupt an ongoing trial in Rae Bareilly.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 2:50:31 PM |

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