Babri Masjid demolition case verdict | D-Day on September 30 for Advani, others

BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

A special CBI court here will decide on Wednesday if senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani and 31 others — many of them linked to the Sangh Parivar — are guilty of instigating a mob of kar sevaks under a criminal conspiracy to bring down the Babri Masjid.

The Mughal-era mosque was demolished almost 28 years ago on December 6, 1992, when the VHP-BJP-RSS combine led a Ram Janmabhoomi movement across several parts of the country.

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The accused persons include Mr. Advani, his BJP colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh, Lallu Singh, Sakshi Maharaj and Vinay Katiyar, and several others, such as Sadhvi Ritambara and Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. Many of the accused are former or present Members of Parliament or members of State Legislatures.

Mr. Kalyan Singh was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh when the mosque was demolished. According to lawyers connected with the trial, he was the only accused person to submit documentary evidence in his defence. None of the accused produced a witness in their defence. On the other hand, 351 prosecution witnesses, many of them journalists, were examined during the trial.

Apart from the key charge of criminal conspiracy (Section 120B, IPC), which was restored by the Supreme Court in 2017, Mr. Advani and others also face charges of rioting, unlawful assembly, promoting enmity between different groups, imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration and statements conducing to public mischief.

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Some of the other accused, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Mahant Nrityagopal Das of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, Shiv Sena leader Satish Pradhan, VHP leader Champat Rai, Mahant Dharmdas and B.L. Sharma, also face additional charges of injuring or defiling a place of worship and deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings. The court had clubbed together the two sets of cases in the Babri demolition — Lucknow and Rae Bareli — and held a comprehensive trial in Lucknow on the directions of the top court.

Mr. Advani and other top BJP-VHP leaders are accused of being present on the dais some distance away from the Babri Masjid and exhorting a mob of kar sevaks to demolish the structure on the fateful day.

Two main crimes

A total of 49 FIRs had been filed in the case but the case deals with two main crimes. The first crime (no. 197 of 1992) was alleged against lakhs of kar sevaks on charges of dacoity, robbery, causing of hurt, injuring and defiling places of public worship, promoting enmity between two groups on grounds of religion and so on.

The second FIR (no. 198) was lodged against eight persons: Mr. Advani, Ms. Bharti, Mr. Katiyar, Mr. Joshi, Ms. Ritambara, Ashok Singhal (VHP leader), Giriraj Kishore and V.H. Dalmia. Mr. Singhal and Mr. Kishore are now longer alive.

The Supreme Court in April 2017 used its extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142 to restore the criminal conspiracy charges framed against the accused.

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The top court overruled the Allahabad High Court judgment dropping the charges against 21 of the top accused persons. The Allahabad HC had in 2010 upheld a special CBI court’s decision to drop conspiracy charges against Mr. Advani and others in 2001.

The CBI judge has directed all 32 accused persons to be present in court in person on Wednesday. However, it is still not clear if all of them will be able to, as some of them are either aged or unwell. Ms. Bharti is COVID-19 positive, while Mr. Joshi is 86, Mr. Advani 92 and Mr. Kalyan Singh 88 and hospitalised.

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Mr. Joshi and Mr. Advani had earlier recorded their statements in the case via video conferencing. However, Mr. Kalyan Singh appeared in person.

Pleading innocence, he had accused the Congress government at the Centre of implicating him in the case on baseless allegations due to political vendetta. Mr. Advani and Mr. Joshi had also denied the charges against them while testifying.

Ms. Bharti had expressed pride that she was a part of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 3:01:53 PM |

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