Babri Masjid demolition: Supreme Court restores conspiracy charges against LK Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti

NEW DELHI(PTI): The Supreme Court reinstated criminal conspiracy charges against BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri masjid demolition case.

Babri Masjid demolition case

The CBI had petitioned the court for restoring criminal conspiracy charges against the senior BJP leaders for the demolition of the Mughal-era mosque on December 6, 1992. The incident sparked one of India’s worst communal riots that left more than 3,000 people dead. The Supreme Court today ruled that Lal Krishna Advani and several other senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders will face conspiracy charges in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

The court also ordered a time-bound trial, ordering that the judge hearing the case shall not be transferred until a judgement is delivered and that there shall be adjournments during the trial except under exceptional circumstances.

The Allahabad High Court had earlier ruled in favour of the conspiracy charges being dropped against the veteran BJP leaders, including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is prosecuting the Babri demolition cases, had appealed against the high court’s order.

The Ayodhya structure was demolished by supporters of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) over a belief that Hindu god Ram was born at the spot where Babur, the first Mughal emperor, had built the mosque.

Here are the Live updates:

11:15am: Congress welcomes the SC ruling though it says it is delayed. “It is little late in the day but nevertheless satisfying to note that the law will be taking its own course,” says Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.

11:10am: Others who will face criminal conspiracy charges are Vinay Katiyar,Sadhvi Ritambara,Satish Pradhan,Champat Rai Bansal and Late Giriraj Kishore, reports ANI

11am: CBI shall ensure that on every hearing, there is a prosecution witness. The case cannot be adjourned for want of a witness: SC

10:55am: The apex court says the trial judge hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case shall not be moved out until he completes the trial in two years.

10:50am: BJP leader Kalyan Singh is protected from facing trial as he is a governor, but charges will be framed against him once ceases to be the governor.

Kalyan Singh is the governor of Rajasthan.

10:45am: The Babri Masjid case will be transferred to Lucknow court from Rae Bareli within four weeks, directs SC.

10:35am: The top court revives the charges 16 years after they were dropped by a Lucknow court on technical grounds. The BJP leaders are already being tried for making inflammatory speeches that provoked the ‘kar sevaks’ to pull down the mosque. The trial is being held in Rae Bareli.

The Supreme Court today allowed the CBI’s appeal and also ordered the clubbing of two trials that are currently going on in the Babri demolition case. The case against Advani, Joshi and Bharti was being heard in a Raebareli court while a Lucknow court was hearing a case against unnamed karsevaks who are accused to actually demolishing the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992.
However, the apex court has now ordered the clubbing of the two cases, ruling that the Lucknow court will also rule on the conspiracy charges against Advani, Joshi, Bharti and others.
The bench of Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman also ruled that the trial judge hearing the Babri case will not be transferred until the judgement in the case is delivered.
The bench also ruled that Kalyan Singh, currently the governor of Rajasthan, enjoys constitutional immunity and won’t be tried right now. Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the demolition, will be tried once he relinquishes the post of governor.
HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
There were two sets of cases relating to the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992. The first involved unnamed ‘karsevaks’, the trial of which is taking place in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relate to the BJP leaders, including LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, in a Raebareli court.
The Lucknow court is hearing the case against unknown ‘karsevaks’ who were in and around the Babri Masjid when it was pulled down.
On April 6, the Supreme Court bench had indicated that they may order holding of joint trial of the two sets of cases by transferring the trial from Raebareli to the Lucknow court.
The bench had also said since 25 years have already passed, in the interest of justice, it would consider ordering a time-bound trial on day-to-day basis, to be completed preferably within two years.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for Advani and Joshi, had vociferously opposed the proposal for holding joint trial and transferring their case from Raebareli to Lucknow.
The clubbing of two FIRs was opposed by the counsel for the accused on the ground that there were different sets of persons named as accused in the two cases, the trial of which were at an advanced stage at two different places. They were of the view that joint trial would lead to the beginning of de novo (afresh) proceedings.
The Central Bureau of Investigation, which is prosecuting the cases, had clarified that it was not making any submission on the issue of the trial of the BJP leaders accused in the case but restricting itself to restoration of the charge of conspiracy against them.
The conspiracy charge against the 13 accused including Advani, Joshi and Bharti, was dropped by the Raebareli court.
The appeals were filed by one Haji Mahboob Ahmad (since dead) and the CBI against dropping of conspiracy charges against 21 accused including the top BJP leaders. Eight of the accused have since died.
A supplementary charge sheet was filed against eight persons but not the 13 who were discharged for plotting the demolition.
Besides BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and Bharti, conspiracy charges were dropped against Kalyan Singh (currently the Governor of Rajasthan), Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore, the latter two have since died.
The others against whom the conspiracy charge was dropped include Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Satish Pradhan, C R Bansal, Ashok Singhal (now deceased), Sadhvi Ritambhara, Mahant Avaidhynath (now deceased), R V Vedanti, Paramhans Ram Chandra Das (now deceased), Jagdish Muni Maharaj, B L Sharma, Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar and Moreshwar Save (now deceased).
The appeals have sought setting aside the Allahabad High Court’s order of May 20, 2010, dropping section 120B (criminal conspiracy) under the Indian Penal Code while upholding a special court’s decision.
CBI had charge-sheeted 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 the 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.
While upholding the special court’s order, the Allahabad 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.
(With inputs from PTI)