A special CBI court on Wednesday acquitted all 32 surviving accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, citing lack of evidence.
In his 2,300-page order, CBI Special Judge Surendra Kumar Yadav rejected evidence from photos, videos, and speeches of the accused, raised questions on the conclusions drawn by the prosecution, and referred to the possible involvement of Pakistani intelligence agencies and anti-social elements and terrorists disguised as kar sevaks who had entered the site.
The order said there was no evidence that the accused had met “inside a room” to plan the razing of the mosque.
Also, the judge ruled, videos of the demolition were not sent for forensic examination, and negatives of the pictures taken on that day were not produced – they could not, therefore, be relied upon as evidence.
“All evidence present in documents was analysed. The crime against the accused could not be established,” Yadav said in his order, written in Hindi.
Among those aquitted of conspiracy charges were the leading lights of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992: former Union ministers L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Uma Bharti, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Kalyan Singh, and former BJP MP Vinay Katiyar.
The CBI had filed chargesheets against 49 people, 17 of whom, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Ashok Singhal and Acharya Giriraj Kishore, and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, are now dead.
This was the last order passed by Yadav – he had retired last year, and had been on extension on the direction of the Supreme Court. The order came less than a year after a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, gave the disputed land in Ayodhya to a trust for the building of a Ram temple. The Supreme Court had called the razing of the Babri Masjid illegal.
The CBI had relied heavily on newspaper cuttings, video clips, and speeches by the accused to establish its case.
The judge, however, said: “…From the witnesses produced by the CBI, the newspaper cuttings, video cassettes, and the printout of the speeches, it is established that there was no occasion where the accused persons sat inside a room and made a plan to demolish the mosque…
“No prosecution witness has clearly named any accused persons; the witnesses have also not clearly stated that it was through the accused that the disputed structure was demolished.”
In rejecting the charges of criminal conspiracy and rioting, the court made the following observations:
“…It is well established that people gathered in lakhs to perform kar seva, there was a lot of dust, and that the disputed structure was least 200-300 metres away from Ram Katha Kunj; a witness has also said it was 800 metres… In these circumstances, it appears unbelievable that the accused used hand gestures to direct the demolition of the mosque, and that this was seen by a witness…,” it said.
The order also said: “Almost all witnesses have said that the kar sevaks had a handful of sand and water, and that they were performing kar seva… The witness who was present at the spot has also said that at the place of the puja, there was a lot of noise and aarti was being performed peacefully… No witness has testified that any of the accused were engaged in the demolition of the disputed structure.”
The court rejected the prosecution’s case in four broad aspects:
Rejecting any criminal conspiracy by the accused, the court raised questions over the government not acting on a local intelligence report about the involvement of Pakistani agencies.
It said the CBI’s case on criminal conspiracy was weakened in the light of a report submitted on December 5, 1992 by the local intelligence unit (LIU), which said members of the Pakistani intelligence agency could infiltrate the venue and demolish the structure on December 6.
“According to one report, explosives originating from Pakistan have reached Ayodhya via Delhi… Another intelligence report says that about 100 persons including anti-social/anti-national elements from the Udhampur area of J&K are coming to Ayodhya in the garb of kar sevaks,” the court said, citing excerpts of the intelligence inputs.
“Despite receiving such important information no deliberation was made,” the court said.
It concluded: “Prosecution witness has accepted that anti-social elements and terrorists disguised as kar sevaks had entered the area, due to which the demolition of the disputed structure took place. The same has also been proved by the LIU report.”
The court concluded that no “specific” recording or voice sample had been produced as evidence that establishes that the speeches made at the site incited the mob to demolish the mosque.
“With respect to accused L K Advani, M M Joshi, Sadhvi Rithambara, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar…the evidence against them has been examined in detail; on the question whether they raise slogans, no recording or a voice sample as evidence has been produced, which establishes that a specific speech incited religious sentiments,” it said.
“The journalists and photographers present on December 6 were examined in the court… a prosecution witness has said that Uma Bharti raised slogans… However, there is no testimony that shows that the specific speech incited the kar sevaks; almost all witnesses have accepted that there was noise and that they could not hear anyone. Bhajans and kirtans were being played on loudspeakers…,” the court said.
“There are various photographs, which were captured by the witnesses on December 6, that show some people climbing on the Babri Masjid, photos of leaders sitting and police officers present; there are also photographs of the kar sevaks. That the accused themselves are demolishing the disputed structure is not established from these photos; only their presence at the spot has been confirmed,” the court concluded.
The court also raised the technical ground that the CBI had not produced the negatives of the photos, or obtained signatures of the photographers to prove the pictures were taken during the incident.
“…The negatives…of the photographs (of the incident) have not been submitted…and not all the photos have been proved. However, it is a common procedure that only a negative of a photo is submitted to the court,” it said.
“…From the examination of the photos it is clear that it does not contain any signatures; only “Suman” is written or has a seal of “Vishnu studio”. There are no signatures…This evidence has not been proved by the photographers.”
About multiple pictures produced by photojournalist Praveen Jain, the court said: “The photographs produced by the Praveen Jain have been enlarged from the negatives. The photos only have the seal of the newspaper; there are no signatures of the photographer and the negatives of the photos have also not been produced before the court.”
The court also rejected videos produced by the CBI on the ground that they had not been sent for forensic examination to rule out tampering.
“During the examination, the prosecution witness has accepted that all the videos seized by the CBI were not in sealed state; and even after the seizure no video cassette/footage was sealed. They were also not sent for forensic examination to establish that these videos have not been tampered; the witness has also admitted that the video produced before the court has advertisements inserted in between, and that it has footage from outside Ayodhya, too… The witness has admitted that they followed their own procedures and have not followed procedures mandated under the CrPC,” the court said.
The prosecuting officer said the judgment would be referred to the CBI headquarters in New Delhi, where the agency’s law department would study it and decide whether to file an appeal.
“If they ask, we will provide our opinion. The 49 complainants of the case, which includes two policemen, may also file appeals against the judgment if they are interested,” a CBI officer said in Lucknow.
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