Almost 28 years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a special CBI court on Wednesday acquitted all the 32 accused, including BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, in the criminal conspiracy case, holding that there was no conclusive proof against them.
CBI judge Surendra Kumar Yadav said the demolition of the 500-year old Babri Masjid was not pre-planned and the accused were being acquitted due to lack of evidence. “They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” said defence lawyer KK Mishra. Follow LIVE Updates
Twenty-six out of the 32 accused were present in the special court when the judgment was pronounced while Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti, Satish Pradhan, Nritya Gopal Das and Kalyan Singh excused themselves on grounds of health and age.
Explained | Ayodhya conspiracy: waiting for verdict
Outside the court, there was heavy police deployment and barricading. Media persons were not allowed to enter the court premises in Qaiserbagh area of Lucknow.
AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jilani said they would appeal against the verdict in the High Court. “The judgment pronounced by the special CBI court is wrong. We will appeal in the High Court,” said Jilani, who was also part of the Babri Action Committee.
Advani said the judgement vindicated his personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi movement while Murli Manohar Joshi called it a “historic decision” by the court.
“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for December 6 incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy. We are happy, everyone should now be excited about Ram Mandir’s construction,” Joshi said.
The Congress said the verdict runs counter to the 2019 Supreme Court judgment as also the “Constitutional spirit”. Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said said the “entire country (had) witnessed a deep-rooted political conspiracy by BJP-RSS and its leaders” to destroy the country’s “communal amity and brotherhood for usurping power at any cost”.
“The then BJP Government of Uttar Pradesh was a co-conspirator in the designed attack on India’s Constitutional ethos. So much so that the Supreme Court was misled by filing a wrong Affidavit on oath. It is only after detailed examination of all these aspects, facts and evidence that the Supreme Court held the demolition of Masjid to be ‘an egregious violation of the rule of law’,” he said.
Prominent Sunni cleric and All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) member Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali said everyone knows how the “Babri masjid was demolished in full public view” and the “law of the land was shredded to pieces”.
“The Muslims if this country have always respected court decisions. In the final judgment of the Babri masjid case, the court had clearly said Muslims had been wrongly deprived of a mosque that had been constructed well over 450 years ago. Then the Supreme Court also said that it was an unlawful destruction. However, if there was a criminal conspiracy, it had to be decided by the court. Now, Muslim organisations will sit together and decide whether it (today’s judgment) has to be appealed or not,” he said.
There were also several reactions from within the BJP, including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who said that the verdict proved that justice prevailed however late it may be. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath alleged that a conspiracy was hatched by then Congress government to defame saints and office bearers of BJP, VHP and other organisations.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, on the other hand, called it a sad day for democracy. “Today is a sad day in the history of Indian judiciary. Now, the court says there was no conspiracy. Please enlighten me, how many days of months of preparations are required to disqualify an action from being spontaneous?” he asked.
The Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992 by ‘kar sevaks’ who claimed that it was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple. The demolition had triggered riots in many parts of the country that left nearly 2,000 dead. Following this, two cases were filed in Ayodhya: one related to the conspiracy of the demolition, and another about instigation of the crowd. The remaining cases were merged with the conspiracy FIR.
The CBI had filed a chargesheet against 49 people in the case, of whom 17 died during trial. The court recorded statements of 351 prosecution witnesses.
In 2001, a trial court had dropped proceedings against 21 of the accused. The verdict was upheld by the High Court. However, on April 19, 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered restoration of the conspiracy charges and ordered daily hearing in the case, with trial to be concluded in two years.
Opinion | A message from the epics
The charges of conspiracy are in addition to the existing charges against the accused of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, for which they are also facing trial. The accused are also facing charges of having made assertions “prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship”.
The CBI argued that the accused had conspired and instigated kar sevaks to demolish the mosque. The accused have pleaded innocence saying they were implicated by the then Congress government at the Centre as political vendetta.
Last year, the Supreme Court had allotted the disputed site in Ayodhya for construction of a Ram temple, while calling the demolition of the mosque a violation of the law. An alternative five-acre site was marked in the city for building a mosque.
“On 6 December 1992, the structure of the mosque was brought down and the mosque was destroyed. The destruction of the mosque took place in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance given to this Court. The destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law,” the Supreme Court had said.
“During the pendency of the suits, the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship. The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago,” it added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines