A special CBI court in Lucknow on Tuesday charged former deputy PM LK Advani, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, Cabinet minister Uma Bharti and others accused of criminal conspiracy for their role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. The court, while granting bail to all the accused on personal bonds of Rs 50,000 each, rejected the discharge petition filed by them and said they will be charged under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code.
As the court proceedings began on Tuesday, the counsel for the 12 accused moved a bail application on their behalf, which the court allowed. The leaders then argued against the framing of charges against them, asserting that they had no role in the razing of the mosque and had, in fact, tried to stop it, but their discharge petition was rejected.
Apart from Advani, Joshi and Bharti, other accused who appeared before the court included BJP MP Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Ritambara, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Ramjanmabhoomi Trust chief Nritya Gopal Das, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma alias Prem Ji, Champat Rai Bansal, Dharma Das and Satish Pradhan. All were named in an FIR filed after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, for allegedly instigating the mob and conspiracy behind the razing of the disputed structure.
The conspiracy charge against Advani and others was dropped by a special CBI court in 2001. The speacial CBI court sought to distinguish between the main demolition case and the case related to hate speeches. The decision was later endorsed by the Allahabad High Court in 2010.
But the Supreme Court revived the conspiracy charges on April 19 this year, describing the demolition of the 16th century mosque as a “crime” that shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution”. The Supreme Court also ordered prosecution of Advani, Joshi, Bharti and others accused for criminal conspiracy in the politically sensitive case and had given the special court a month’s time to frame conspiracy charges. It also ordered day-to-day trial and asked the special court to deliver its verdict within two years.
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Earlier on Tuesday, when Advani and Joshi landed in Lucknow, there was a beeline of saffron leaders to meet them. While deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and Cabinet ministers SP Sahi and Ashutosh Tandon reached the airport to receive them, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath met them at the VVIP guest house, where they stopped over briefly before proceeding towards the CBI court.