LUCKNOW : A Special CBI court here on Tuesday charged senior BJP leaders L.K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti with criminal conspiracy in the December 9, 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case. They will now face trial in the conspiracy case almost 25 years after the Mughal-era mosque was demolished by kar sevaks.
There is “sufficient evidence on record to frame charges” against them under conspiracy and other charges, special CBI judge S.K. Yadav said in the order.The court framed charges against the trio along with three others — BJP Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar and VHP leaders Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Sadhvi Ritambhara — under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
A “discharge application” filed by Mr. Advani and others was rejected by the court.The Babri Masjid Case Files The judge earlier in the proceedings, however, accepted their application for bail, which the CBI opposed, against a personal bond of ₹50,000 each. Bail was granted to all 12 accused who appeared in court in person. Vimal Srivastava, one of the lawyers for the accused leaders, said in the discharge application submitted before the court that “there was no material against them to constitute an offence under Section 120B.” The contention was rejected by the CBI judge.
Previous charges against Mr. Advani and others under Sections147, 149, 153A, 153B and 505 of the IPC will run along the additional charge of criminal conspiracy. The previous clauses are: rioting (147), every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object (149), promoting enmity between different groups (153A), imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration (153B) and statements conducing to public mischief (505).
Apart from the six mentioned above, the court also framed charges against half-a-dozen other accused persons in the Babri Masjid demolition, most of them connected with the Sangh Parivar. These are former BJP MP 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.
Amid tight security arrangements, Mr. Advani, Dr. Joshi, Ms. Bharti and other accused in the Babri demolition case appeared in person, obeying summons issued to them on May 25. The court had stressed that it would not accept any pleas seeking exemption from appearance or adjournment.
Before arriving at the special CBI court in Indira Nagar here, Mr. Advani was greeted at the VVIP guest house by U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Sources said Mr. Advani and others did not speak inside the court. This was the first time Mr. Advani and other top BJP leaders have appeared before a court in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition case after the Supreme Court in April used its extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142 to restore the criminal conspiracy charges framed against them.
The apex court overruled the Allahabad High Court judgment dropping the charges. 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 Special CBI court has been directed by the SC to conduct daily hearing of the case. On whether Mr. Advani and others will have to be present in person for the daily trial, Mr. Srivastava, the defence counsel, told The Hindu: “Not at all. In any case presence of the accused is not required during trial.”
Mr. Srivastava also said the accused was “yet to decide” if they would challenge the order in a higher court. The trial in the criminal conspiracy is expected to start on Wednesday with the filing of evidence, a source said. “No force can stop the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya”
Along with the 12 leaders, two other accused, BJP MP from Unnao, Sakshi Maharaj and Pawan Pandey were also present in court. “It was punya. I did not commit any crime…No force can stop the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya,” said Sakshi Maharaj as he entered the court.“There has been no decision since 1992. Many people died in course of the case. Justice should be done quickly. And the same hurry should be shown in the construction of a Ram Mandir,” he added.
Mr. Bharti said she did not consider herself an accused and dismissed the charges of conspiracy. “It was an open movement like the one that happened against the Emergency,” she told reporters.The apex court last month had also transferred the Rae Bareli case in the demolition and clubbed it with the Lucknow case pending before a CBI Special Court.
While the case in Rae Bareli accuses Mr. Advani, Dr. Joshi, Ms. Bharti and other BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders of giving provocative speeches, the case in Lucknow is against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” and deals with the actual act of demolition of the mosque and violence.