Six years after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed an appeal for restoration of criminal conspiracy charges for Babri demolition against BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and others, the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the appeal. It ordered an uninterrupted day-to-day trial of the conspiracy case and directed that it be completed within two years. Here are some of the theories, reactions and interpretation:
A widely circulated theory is that the Supreme Court order has been timed to ensure that both Advani and Joshi are ruled out from the Presidential race. Another theory holds that the court by directing the trial to be completed in two years has played into the hands of the BJP, which will ride on the verdict to the next general election due in May 2019. If the BJP leaders get convicted, it could hail them as martyrs to the cause. And if they get acquitted, the party could ride the high horse of political morality. And the day-to-day trial without any adjournment, ordered by the court, would ensure uninterrupted media coverage to the issue.
But the fact is that the CBI had filed the appeal in 2011 for restoration of the conspiracy case against BJP leaders. It certainly seemed to be against all principles of justice to hold trial of anonymous kar sevaks instigated by the leaders while letting the instigators off.
The veteran BJP leader had declared that it was the saddest day of his life when the Babri Masjid was demolished. But his role in leading the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, launching the rath yatra, conducting the ‘Shila Pujan’ or worship of bricks to be used in building the Ram temple etc has left nobody in any doubt that he was responsible, indirectly, for the demolition and subsequent communal violence in different parts of the country.
If LK Advani did not spread hatred with the Babri Masjid issue, Mumbai riots could have been avoided as well as the Mumbai blasts, tweeted a perceptive observer on Wednesday.
But while Advani was discharged in the conspiracy case during NDA I, when he was both the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, there were testimonies against him, ironically one by his personal security officer Anju Gupta.
As Manoj Mitta reported in 2011: “This lady goes on to give further evidence about how Advani was very much a part of all the jubilation and how there was a time when he was concerned about the kar sevaks who were on top of the structure, engaged in the demolition. His concern was not to stop them, his concern was not to bring them down and save the mosque. His concern, and this comes through very clearly in Anju Gupta’s testimony, was that because there were a lot of kar sevaks at the ground level who were simultaneously demolishing the structure, there was a great probability of those who were on top of the structure being hurt, of their falling down and getting hurt. That was his concern and that is why he sent Uma Bharti there to dissuade them, to tell them to come down. Those were his concerns; there was no anxiety being displayed by him to stop anything. This is what came through in her testimony.”
While the Supreme Court on Wednesday refrained from ordering a re-trial of Kalyan Singh, currently the Rajasthan Governor, there is again little doubt that as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister in 1992, Singh was guilty of not just contempt of court but also of failure to use state power to honour his commitment to the court.
As Mitta reported on the observations of the Supreme Court: “This is the greatest ever perfidy, there can be no greater instance of contempt of the Supreme Court, an otherwise mild judge really thundered in the courtroom, making someone like KK Venugopal, who was representing the Kalyan Singh government, say: I’m ashamed my lord, I was not privy to this conspiracy. When my clients said that they were going to observe the rule of law, that they were going to ensure that no damage would take place to the structure, I took their word for it.”
Little wonder then that Asaduddin Owaisi put out these acerbic tweets soon after the Supreme Court delivered its order:
While opinion is divided on whether the Supreme Court’s order is a command performance or a much belated correction of judicial inaction, BJP leaders put up a brave face. Union minister and one of the accused, Uma Bharti told the media that she was ready to go to jail for Ram Mandir.
Some BJP supporters exulted and tweeted that the order could not have come at a more opportune time, as this tweet suggested:
Zafaryab Jilani, senior lawyer and the convenor of the Babri Action Committee put things in perspective when he told National Herald: “I welcome the verdict. It is the victory of law and justice. SC has established the supremacy of the Judiciary. It means that the country will be run by the rule of law and not by any political party or majoritarian viewpoint. It will restore confidence of the people on Constitution and secularism.”
“Secondly, since the CBI will now be answerable to the highest court, pressure from the PMO would not affect its functioning,” he said.
A propaganda, he pointed out, had been launched to suggest that the Modi government had asked the CBI to file the case while the truth is that the case was filed in 2011. It has nothing to do with the “Modi-Advani clash” or Advani’s presidential bid, Jilani added.