In a major setback to top BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and others, the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, revived criminal conspiracy charges against them in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case. While restoring the charge against Advani, Joshi, Bharti and others, a bench comprising justices PC Ghosh and RF Nariman ordered joint trial against the leaders and ‘karsevaks’ in Lucknow and directed day-to-day trial with the proceedings to be completed in two years.
The bench, however, made it clear that there would be no de novo (fresh) trial in the matter. Advani, 89, along with party colleagues, was originally charged with making inflammatory speeches that motivated lakhs of karsevaks to pull down the 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. That trial is being held in Rae Bareli.
Now, the BJP leaders, facing far more serious charges, will be tried in Lucknow, where a separate case dealing with about 20 people accused of the actual demolition of the mosque is being heard. Allowing the CBI appeal with certain directions, the bench asked the trial court to proceed expeditiously in the case without granting unnecessary adjournments in the trial proceeding.
The top court also said that the trial judge of Lucknow ‘shall not be transferred’ till conclusion and delivery of judgement in the sensational case. Kalyan Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the mosque was demolished, is currently the governor of Rajasthan and cannot be prosecuted while in office. His trial will begin after his term ends, the Supreme Court said.
The Congress welcomed the decision, saying the law of the land should prevail in the Babri Masjid demolition case and the guilty should be punished. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “The Supreme Court has spoken. Let law of the land take its own course without fear or favour. Let justice be done and guilty punished.”
While finance minister Arun Jaitley virtually ruled out resignation of Uma Bharti from the Cabinet, the water resources minister said she was ready to sacrifice her life for the construction of Ram temple.
“Grand Ram temple in Ayodhya is my dream. Ready to go to prison or be hanged for India and Ram mandir,” she said, adding that she was ‘proud and unapologetic’ and does not repent her role in the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign and is ready to face whatever punishments come her way.
The CBI had challenged trial and the Allahabad HC orders dropping conspiracy charges against 21 persons. The agency had stated that it had evidence that the BJP leaders, who made their speeches on a stage near the mosque on the day that it was razed, were part of the deadly plan to bring down the mosque.
CBI had chargesheeted 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 peace) of IPC.