Babri case: Advani, others to stand trial Apex court revives criminal conspiracy charge

New Delhi, April 19

Twenty-five years after the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, senior BJP leaders and protagonists of the Ram Temple movement —LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti — will stand trial for the alleged criminal conspiracy to pull down the 16th century structure. The Supreme Court today revived the criminal conspiracy charge against the senior BJP leaders and shifted the trial from a Rae Bareli Magistrate’s court to a Special CBI court in Lucknow.  “Let justice be done though the heavens fall,” said a Bench of Justices PC Ghose and Rohinton Nariman — which had earlier termed the delay as “evasion of justice”. Using its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Bench directed the Lucknow Special Court to complete the trial and deliver the judgment in two years. “Crimes which shake the secular fabric of the Constitution have allegedly been committed almost 25 years ago. The accused have not been brought to book, largely because of the conduct of the CBI in not pursuing the prosecution of the aforesaid alleged offenders in a joint trial, and because of technical defects that were easily curable, but which were not cured by the state government,” it said. Allowing the CBI’s appeal against an Allahabad High Court verdict, it said the proceedings as regards the framing of additional charges under Section 120-B of the IPC (criminal conspiracy) be completed in four weeks. Besides Advani, Joshi and Bharti, other BJP/VHP leaders against whom additional charges would be framed are Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambara and Vishnu Hari Dalmia. The Bench directed the Special Court to also frame additional charges under Section 120-B and other provisions of the IPC mentioned in the joint chargesheet filed by the CBI against Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma (Prem) and Satish Chandra Nagar. Regarding then UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, the Bench said, being the Governor of Rajasthan, he was entitled to immunity under Article 361 as long as he held the position. The Bench, however, made it clear that the Lucknow court would frame charges and move against him as soon as he ceased to be the Governor. The case against Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore has abated following their death. The Bench ordered that there shall be no transfer of the judge conducting the trial until the trial was over. While the high-profile leaders were being tried without any conspiracy charge at Rae Bareli, ordinary “kar sewaks” faced conspiracy charge at Lucknow for demolishing the disputed structure at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.