Babri Masjid Demolition Case: Advani, Joshi exempted from personal appearance in court tomorrow
17 of the 49 accused are no longer alive. Several prominent accused including LK Advani and MM Joshi exempted from personal appearance. But police will be stationed in their houses during the verdict
Will the accused be acquitted and given the benefit of doubt? Will they be convicted and sentenced and given time to appeal? Will some of the accused be convicted and others let off?
In case of conviction, the legal fraternity expects the court to give time to the accused to appeal against the verdict before the High Court.
The three questions are on everyone’s lips on Tuesday, the day before a CBI court in Lucknow is due to pronounce judgement in the criminal case for the demolition of Babri Mosque. The buzz is that judge S K Yadav will deliver a ‘historic’ judgement on Wednesday, the day of his retirement. He has been on extension till pronouncing the judgement.
The high-profile case has lingered for all of 28 years since December, 1992, during which the number of accused was whittled down to 49 including former deputy PM Lal Krishna Advani, former Union ministers Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati and former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh.
Some of the high profile accused like Lal Krishna Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi have been exempted from personal appearance in the court because of their age. However police would be present in their houses during the verdict and if required they could be arrested.
Former Union minister Uma Bharati is in Bhopal and has informed that she is suffering from COVID while former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, also recovering from COVID is presently said to be in Ghaziabad. Mahant Nritya Gopal Das too is reportedly not keeping well after contacting CIVOD and is said to be on oxygen in Ayodhya. All of them have been exempted from personal appearance
More than 350 witnesses recorded their statements and CBI filed a consolidated charge sheet in 49 related cases. Initially the case had 49 accused but only 32 of them are alive.
The trial was completed this month. The CBI special court in Lucknow had taken up the day-to-day hearing of the case since 2017, following a Supreme Court order. The trial saw the surviving 32 accused appear before the court and record their statements. Some of them did so virtually.
All the accused claimed innocence and said they were not guilty. They alleged they were framed in the case for political reasons.
Minutes after the demolition of Babri mosque, the first FIR no. 197/92 was registered against unknown “kar sevaks” at 5.15 pm under sections 395, 397, 332, 337, 338, 295, 297, 153A of IPC, and section 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
Ten minutes later, a second FIR (no. 198/92) was registered under sections 153A, 153B, 505 of IPC against LK Advani, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Ritambhara. This was the hate-and-provocative-speech case.
In a curious move the then government recommended CBI probe into case number 197 but the case no. 198 against accused politicians was handed to the CB-CID wing of the Uttar Pradesh police. On August 27, 1993, the state government transferred all the remaining 48 cases, including case no. 198 to the CBI.
The CBI filed a consolidated single charge sheet against 40 people in all the 49 cases on October 5, 1993. More than two years later, on January 11, 1996, the agency filed a supplementary charge sheet against nine other prominent people.
The CBI in its charge sheet claimed to have concrete and strong evidence to prove that demolition of the mosque was the fallout of a sinister conspiracy. It also came up with new names as accused, which included senior BJP and RSS leaders. A charge under section 120(b) of criminal conspiracy was added against the accused.
Last month most of the accused including Advani, MM Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Champat Rai (general secretary of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust) recorded their final statements under section 313 of CrPC.