Eight defence lawyers represented the accused in the Babri demolition case who were acquitted by a special CBI court on Wednesday. The Indian Express spoke with six of them who took the case pro bono.
A native of Ayodhya, Mishra began arguing the case in 2010 on the orders of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP. He is representing all the 32 accused. “I am a worker of an organisation which took the responsibility of karseva — i.e. RSS. I have also held the post of Lucknow mahamantri of the VHP,” said Mishra. He said that he had managed to strike a balance between the Babri and other cases,” said Mishra.
A native of Rae Bareilly district, who has settled in Lucknow, Srivastava has been involved in the case since 2002. He is representing all the 32 accused in the case. He says that a case like this would “naturally affect his practice”. Srivastava said he was appointed as an UP government advocate at the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court in 2017, but resigned from the post to pursue the case in June 2020. “I preferred to rejoin the case and got statements of all the accused recorded and also submitted written arguments running into more than 400 pages,” says Srivastava.
Arguing the case since it was transferred to Lucknow in 2010, Tripathi said fighting the case for the last 10 years had had “its pros and cons”. “It has been a long journey for me. We have all devoted a lot of time to this and are fighting it on the basis of merit,” he said. He is also representing all the accused.
A native of Lucknow, Singh got involved in the case on October 5, 1993 when the chargesheet was filed. “I was initially representing two persons — then Faizabad DM Ravindranath Srivastava and then SSP DB Rai who passed away in 2009. I am now representing only Srivastava,” said Singh. He said his client were “dragged” into the case because of politics.
“They were discharging their duties and if it was anyone who held the post at the time, they would have been dragged in the case too,” said Singh. “Despite the nature of the case, I have managed my practice without any such issue,” added Singh.
The state convenor for BJP’s legal cell, Singh took up the case in 2003 after the CBI filed a chargesheet. Singh is representing Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj “pro bono” (without charge). “If there are hundreds of witnesses being examined in a case, then obviously, it is a time taking process. But I did not have to be present for examination of all of them. But, I had to devote a lot of time for reading the case papers and getting to know all the details,” said Singh, who hails from Sultanpur and is the deputy chairman of the UP Bar Council. He has also been Council chairman.
Lodhi is the latest entrant in the defence team. He represents former BJP leader and Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh. “I got involved in the case since September last year after Mr Singh surrendered in the case,” said Lodhi, a lifetime RSS worker who holds the post of BJP pradesh mantri in UP. He is a counsel for Northern Railway at Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. He has also been a member of the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh.