The CBI on Friday provided copies of statements of 196 of its prosecution witnesses to the counsel for 12 BJP, RSS and VHP stalwarts including L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti in Babri Masjid demolition case. The agency had produced the witnesses during the trial in Lucknow’s special court. When the witnesses were being examined, Advani and 11 others were not accused before the Lucknow court and hence, at that time, the copies of the statements were not given to their lawyers to enable them to cross-examine the witnesses.
Special judge S K Yadav, trying the case, fixed June 18 for the next hearing. After the Supreme Court’s directives on April 19, the trial in Raebareli has been clubbed with the Lucknow case. The Supreme Court had also directed that conspiracy charge should be added against 89-year-old Advani and 11 others while directing the transfer of the case from Raebareli to Lucknow for a joint trial.
Advani and 11 other accused had got bail from judge Yadav last month. Before the CBI could start producing further prosecution witnesses, the counsel for Advani and others demanded that they be given the list of prosecution witnesses produced earlier and also be served copies of their statements so that they could cross-examine them afresh. The special judge had earlier directed the CBI to provide the list of witnesses and also copies of their statements to lawyers of Advani and others in compliance with which the agency gave the copies to the respective lawyers.
According to lawyers, it will be a cumbersome exercise for the CBI to produce the 196 witnesses to enable the defence lawyers to cross-examine them in case such demand is made.