On Thursday (June 4), the Special CBI court in Lucknow hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case started recording statements of the accused, who include senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Brij Bhushan Saran Singh and Sakshi Maharaj.
BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, former MP Ram Vilas Vedanti and four other accused appeared before the court Thursday. The court, however, recorded the statement of only Vijay Bahadur Singh for want of time, and asked the rest to appear before it on Friday.
After completion of the examination of prosecution witnesses, the court had fixed June 4 to record statements of all accused under 313 of CrPC. Under Section 313, a judge questions the accused on the basis of the evidence put before the court during the trial, and the accused is given an opportunity to explain the circumstances and the allegations against him. After its completion, the defence puts up evidence in the support of the accused.
The Supreme Court in November 2019 had given its verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute.
What is the Babri Masjid demolition conspiracy?
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, two FIRs were lodged. FIR No. 197/92 was filed against the kar sevaks who allegedly demolished the mosque; FIR No. 198/92 named, besides Advani, Joshi, Bharti, Singh, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Rithambara, and others for “making provocative speeches” that instigated the kar sevaks. Around 47 more cases were lodged then, which were merged with the case of demolition. Bal Thackeray too was named, but his name was removed after his death.
The CBI argued that since the offences transposed from the first case to the second, it was not possible to separate the accused in one FIR from those in the other, and all those named in the first FIR should be tried for conspiracy as well.
The trials related to the two cases were held separately. The one in Lucknow court was on charges of conspiracy to demolish the mosque, and the other in Rae Bareli court was for instigating the crowd to raze the structure. Both the cases were investigated by the CBI.
In May 2010, Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench upheld a trial court verdict dropping conspiracy charges against Advani and others. CBI appealed after nine months, and Advani and others have sought dismissal of the petition on the ground of delay. The case is stuck at the stage of maintainability; CBI has been told to satisfy the court on the reasons for the delay.
On April 19, 2017, the SC revived the criminal conspiracy charge that falls under IPC 120B against Advani, Joshi and Bharti and ordered that both the cases be clubbed. It set up a Special Court (Ayodhya Prakaran) in Lucknow to conclude the hearing. The SC ordered restoration of charges against 13 accused, dropped from the case by the High Court earlier. The SC also ordered the addition of a criminal conspiracy charge against the accused then facing trial in Rae Bareli.
In 2017, the court in Lucknow ordered framing of charges against BJP veterans Advani, Joshi, Bharti and nine others who stood trial for criminal conspiracy in the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
The charges against former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, who is among 13 accused, could not be restored in 2017 on account of constitutional immunity as he was then Governor of Rajasthan. In September last year, after Kalyan Singh lost immunity against prosecution following the end of his tenure as Governor, charges were framed against him. He is also presently out on bail.
Last month, the SC extended the deadline for the special court in Lucknow till August 31, 2020, to deliver the verdict in the demolition case.
Charges of criminal conspiracy against BJP leaders Advani, Joshi, Bharti, Kalyan Singh and others in the demolition case, framed by a special CBI court in 2017, are based on the charge sheet filed by the CBI on October 8, 1993. This charge sheet alleges that Advani “vehemently asserted repeatedly” that the kar seva to be held at Ayodha on December 6, 1992, “would not mean only bhajan and kirtan, but would also involve construction of the Shri Ram temple.”
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About Joshi, the charge sheet alleges, “According to the investigation, Murli Manohar Joshi had said at Mathura on December 1, 1992, on his way to Ayodhya that no force can stop construction of Ram temple and he was encouraging the kar sevaks from the manch on December 6, 1992, for the demolition of the disputed structure and was shouting provocative slogans.”
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The charge sheet says the following about Singh, “The CBI alleges that at his swearing-in as chief minister of UP on June 24, 1991, Singh and senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi visited Ayodhya along with members of his cabinet and party legislators, where they allegedly took a vow to construct the temple. The chargesheet states that Singh said that “in his tenure as Chief Minister, UP, a temple of Shri Ram will inevitably be constructed.”
On Bharti, the charge sheet says that she had “shouted” at Ram Janambhoomi Ayodhya on December 6, 1992: “Ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do,” and she had also advised the kar sevaks to demolish the disputed structure and shouted “Masjid girao, Mandir banao Babar ki aulad ko Pakistan bhagao”, “Jinnah bole Jai Shri Ram” etc.
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