The Supreme Court on April 19, 2017 restored criminal conspiracy trial against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, M M Joshi, Uma Bharti and other senior BJP leaders in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case. The court ordered that separate trial courts at Rae Bareli and Lucknow should be clubbed and trials should be completed in two years by April 19, 2019.
The Supreme Court on September 10, 2018 sought a report from a sessions judge in a Lucknow court on how he intends to complete the trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case within the April 2019 deadline. The court asked for the report from the judge in a sealed cover.
A Bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and Indu Malhotra also sought the Uttar Pradesh government’s response on a plea of trial court judge SK Yadav, whose promotion was stayed by the Allahabad High Court on the ground that he has been mandated by the Supreme Court to complete the trial.
Supreme Court’s April 2017 ruling
• The Supreme Court on April 19, 2017 restored criminal conspiracy trial against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, M M Joshi, Uma Bharti and other senior BJP leaders in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
• A bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman ordered that separate trial courts at Rae Bareli and Lucknow should be clubbed and trials should be conducted in the capital of Uttar Pradesh only and should be completed in two years by April 19, 2019.
• It ruled that there will be no fresh trial because of framing of conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders.
• However, Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh, who enjoys Constitutional immunity, can be tried only after he ceases to hold the office.
• The trial will proceed on a day-to-day basis and will not be adjourned on any ground. Moreover, the judges presiding over the case will not be transferred till the trial is concluded and judgment is pronounced.
• The adjournment would take place, only if the trial court judge feels that it was impossible to proceed and fix the next date of hearing after recording the reasons for the adjournment.
• It also directed probe agency CBI to ensure that prosecution witnesses appear on each and every date for recording of evidence in the case and the trial court should start the proceedings within one month.
• This ruling came on a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) plea challenging the order of Allahabad High Court for quashing the conspiracy charge against Advani and others in May 2010. The Allahabad High Court ruled in favour of the conspiracy charges being dropped against the veteran BJP leaders.
Two different sets of cases
At first, there were two sets of cases relating to the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992. The first involved unnamed 'karsevaks', the trial of which is taking place in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relates to the BJP leaders in a Rae Bareli court.
The Lucknow court was hearing the case against unknown 'karsevaks' who were in and around the Babri Masjid when it was pulled down. While, the Rae Bareli court was hearing conspiracy charge case against 13 accused including LK Advani, M M Joshi, and Uma Bharti.
CBI had charged Advani and 20 others under sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The conspiracy charge against 13 accused including Advani, Joshi and Bharti was dropped in the case. Besides them, conspiracy charges were dropped against Kalyan Singh (currently the Governor of Rajasthan), Late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and Late VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore.
The others against whom the conspiracy charge was dropped include - Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Satish Pradhan, C.R. Bansal, Late Ashok Singhal, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Late Mahant Avaidhynath, R.V. Vedanti, Paramhans Ram Chandra Das, Jagdish Muni Maharaj, BL Sharma, Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar and Moreshwar Save.
However, later, the appeals were filed by Haji Mahboob Ahmad (since dead) and the CBI against dropping of conspiracy charges against abovementioned 21 accused. The appeals also sought setting aside of the Allahabad High Court’s order of May 20, 2010, regarding dropping section 120B (criminal conspiracy) under the IPC.
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