BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, former MP Ram Vilas Vedanti and four other accused appeared before a special CBI court in the Babri demolition case here on 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. Others who appeared before the court were Pawan Pandey, Santosh Dubey and Gandhi Yadav.
Special Judge S K Yadav also directed them to furnish in writing the defence evidence, if any, after the recording of their statement. Thirty-two people, including former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, ex-deputy prime minister L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambara and Sakshi Maharaj, are facing trial in the case.
L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti have been exempted from personal appearance till further orders.
This stage of the trial is also meant to explain to the accused the evidence gathered against them by the prosecuting agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 by “karsevaks” who claimed that the mosque in Ayodhya was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple. The prosecution had wrapped up the examination of its witnesses by March 6 and the court asked some of the accused to appear before it on March 24 for recording their statements under Section 313 of the CrPC. But the proceedings did not take place as the court in Lucknow closed due to the coronavirus crisis.
When the proceedings resumed on May 18, the defense counsel moved an application to summon three prosecution witnesses in order to cross-examine them. This was allowed. On April 19, 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered the special judge to conduct a day-to-day trial, concluding it in two years.
Calling the demolition of the disputed structure a crime which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution”, it allowed the CBI plea on restoration of criminal conspiracy charge against the VIP accused. The court had termed the Allahabad High Court’s February 12, 2001 verdict dropping conspiracy charge against Advani and others as “erroneous”.
On May 8 this year, the top court set a new deadline for the special judge, asking him to deliver the verdict by August 31. Before the 2017 verdict of the apex court, there were two sets of cases relating to the demolition, going on in Lucknow and Raebareli.
The first case involving unnamed “karsevaks” proceeded in a Lucknow court and the second set of cases relating to eight VIPs was being heard in a Raebareli. The cases were then clubbed.
Last year, another bench of the Supreme settled the land dispute over the site where the mosque stood. The SC allowed the construction of a Ram temple at the site and ordered the allocation of a separate plot in Ayodhya for building a mosque.
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