Almost 28 years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, a Special CBI Court will Wednesday pronounce its judgment in the conspiracy case. While the court has directed all the 32 accused, including BJP leaders L K Advani, Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi, to be present in court, there was no clarity on Tuesday on how many will come.
While Advani, Joshi and co-accused Nritya Gopal Das are above 80 years of age and may cite health conditions, Bharti and another accused, Satish Pardhan, are in hospital. Bharti is being treated for the coronavirus and Pradhan for a gangrene condition. Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, who is among the accused, was discharged from hospital on Monday after undergoing treatment for Covid-19. The youngest accused, Pawan Kumar Pandey, is in his 50s, a lawyer said.
“We have no idea who will not attend court proceedings tomorrow. No defence lawyer has filed exemption applications for a client,” defence lawyer K K Mishra said.
The police have been put on alert to prevent any law and order problems following the verdict.
Explained | Ayodhya conspiracy: waiting for verdict
Nritya Gopal Das and another accused, VHP vice-president Champat Rai, are the head and chief secretary of the Shri Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust set up to build the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. They were present when Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the temple, on August 5.
The other accused include Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj, Faizabad MP Lallu Singh, Gonda MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Vinay Katiyar, and Sadhvi Ritambhara.
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.
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.
Last month, the Special CBI Court had recorded statements of Pradhan, Advani and Joshi under Section 313 of the CrPC through video conference. Under the section, a judge questions the accused on the basis of evidence and gives her or she an opportunity to explain the allegations.
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