In a remarkable verdict, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others must face the trial for criminal conspiracy in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
The SC bench of Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman decided to revive the conspiracy charges agreeing with a request from the country’s premier investigating agency, the CBI.
With the SC order, the two sets of cases relating to the demolition will be merged. The first involved unnamed ‘karsevaks and the trial is taking place in a Lucknow court, while the hearing of second set of cases related to the VVIPs was in a Rae Bareli court. Now, Advani and his party colleagues would be tried in Lucknow as part of one comprehensive case.
SC also direct the trial court in Lucknow to complete the trial in two years by ordering day-to-day hearing. It further ordered the CBI to ensure that witnesses are produced in court everyday so that there is no delay.
However, being Governor of Rajasthan, Kalyan Singh won’t be tried due to constitutional immunity unless he ceases to be in that post.
Advani and a dozen others were acquitted of conspiracy charges by Allahabad High Court and the main case against Karsevaks accused of razing the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992 was pending in the Lucknow trial court.
The demolition followed a campaign by Advani and others for a Ram temple at the site. Advani, along with party colleagues like Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi were charged with making inflammatory speeches that motivated lakhs of Hindutva extremists to pull down the mosque in 1992. It had sparked communal riots across the country that left more than 3,000 people dead.
The CBI says it has gathered evidence that the leaders were part of the deadly plan to bring down the mosque.
The SC verdict comes amid the reports that the name of Advani is considering for the post of next President of India and Joshi’s name for Vice-President. Uma Bharti, who is currently a union minister, will also have to face legal trouble.