A CBI special court on Tuesday granted bail to BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid demolition case. The bail was granted on personal bond of Rs 50,000 each. The court has, however, rejected the discharge petitions filed by the leaders. The conspiracy charges have been framed against all the 12 accused.
The court, which earlier rejected their discharge petition, framed charges against Advani (89), Joshi (83), Union minister Bharti (58) and three others under Section 120 (B) of the IPC (criminal conspiracy). The three others are the BJP’s Vinay Katiyar (62), VHP’s Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, who is in his late eighties, and one-time Hindutva firebrand Sadhvi Rithambara (53).
The accused had argued against the framing of charges against them, asserting that they had no role in the razing of the mosque and had tried to stop it. Their discharge petitions were rejected by the judge.
This was the first time that these leaders had appeared before a court in connection with this case. Last month, the Supreme Court had restored the criminal conspiracy charges framed against Advani, Joshi, Bharti and other accused while overruling the Allahabad High Court judgment. Bharti, the union water resources minister, was also summoned to appear before the court along with BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Vishnu Hari Dalmia and one-time firebrand Hindutva preacher Sadhvi Ritambara.
Earlier, Special CBI judge S K Yadav had categorically stated that no application for adjournment or exemption from personal appearance would be entertained. The apex court also ordered daily hearings to meet a two-year deadline. 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.