Veteran BJP leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi on Tuesday appeared before a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition case. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti was also summoned to appear before the court along with BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, VHP’s Vishnu Hari Dalmia and one-time firebrand Hindutva preacher Sadhvi Ritambara.
Speaking with news agency ANI, Bharti rejected the conspiracy charges against the leaders. “It was an open protest, as it was during the time of emergency. What conspiracy was there in it I don’t know,” she said.
Before her scheduled court appearance she said: “It is the matter of God and in such a case I can only have expectations from him. Since I have taken part in it with devotion, I don’t consider myself as a criminal.”
Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi left for Lucknow early Tuesday morning. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met Advani at a VVIP Lucknow guest.
Earlier, Special CBI judge S K Yadav had stated that no application for adjournment or exemption from personal appearance would be entertained. Last month, the Supreme Court had ordered prosecution of Advani, Joshi, Bharti, and other accused for criminal conspiracy in the politically sensitive case. It also ordered the hearings to be concluded in two years. Allowing the CBI’s plea seeking restoration of criminal conspiracy charge against the four BJP leaders, including Katiyar, the apex court had described the demolition of the medieval-era monument as a “crime” which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution”.
The top court, however, said BJP leader Kalyan Singh, who is the Rajasthan Governor, is entitled to immunity under the Constitution until he remains in office. The disputed structure was demolished during Singh’s tenure as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
The court had transferred the case against Advani, Joshi, Bharti and three other accused from a Raebareli court to Lucknow for a joint trial in the 25-year-old case.
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 30, 2017
With PTI inputs