Tribune News Service & PTI
New Delhi/Lucknow, Sept 30
A special CBI court here on Wednesday acquitted all the 32 accused, including senior BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti, in the Babri Masjid demolition case, saying there was no conclusive evidence against them.
In his 2,300-page verdict, Special Judge SK Yadav said the CBI could not produce any conclusive proof against the accused. The verdict, which came 28 years after the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, by kar sevaks, noted that late VHP leader Ashok Singhal wanted to save the structure because Lord Ram idol was inside.
The court’s findings are at variance with those of Justice MS Liberhan Commission, which had concluded in its 2009 report that the masjid demolition was planned and systematic. The demolition had triggered riots that claimed nearly 2,000 lives across India. The acquittal of senior BJP leaders comes less than a year after a five-judge Bench led by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi on November 9, 2019, decided the Ayodhya title dispute and ruled in favour of Ram Lala, paving the way for construction of Ram Temple.
When Special Judge Yadav entered the courtroom at 12.10 pm, 26 of the 32 accused were present along with their lawyers. As the judge pronounced acquittal of all the accused, some of them shouted “Jai Shri Ram”.
Asked if the probe agency will challenge the verdict in the high court, CBI counsel Lalit Singh told reporters a copy of the judgment would be sent to CBI headquarters and further decision would be taken after perusal of the verdict.
The judge refused to accept newspaper reports and photos as evidence as their originals and negatives weren’t produced and videos weren’t clear enough to be relied upon.
The 32 accused include former Deputy PM Advani, former Union ministers Joshi and Bharti, former UP CM Kalyan Singh during whose tenure the structure was pulled down, besides VHP leaders Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Rithambara. Champat Rai, the general secretary of the trust in charge of constructing the temple, was also among the accused.
Judge retires after verdict
Special Judge SK Yadav, who had been given one-year extension till Wednesday by the SC, retired after pronouncing the judgment. The criminal conspiracy charge was dropped by a trial court in 2001. However, the SC on April 19, 2017, revived the charge and asked the Special CBI Judge to conduct day-to-day hearing and complete the trial in two years. Later, it extended the time till September 30, 2020.
Advani, Joshi skip hearing
Six of the 32 accused were not present in the court when the verdict was pronounced. Among them were Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh, LK Advani, MM Joshi, Nritya Gopal Das and Satish Pradhan.
VHP’s Singhal tried to save structure, says CBI court
The CBI special court pronounced that VHP leader late Ashok Singhal tried to stop the kar sevaks assembled around the mosque in Ayodhya from demolishing the disputed structure because the idol of Lord Ram was also inside the structure. Among others, BJP veterans late Pramod Mahajan and Vijayraje Scindia and Shiv Sena’s then chief Bal Thackeray died during the course of the trial.
Faced trial for…
- Criminal conspiracy in addition to promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion
- Accused made assertions prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship
- Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings
- Uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly
1949: Idols of Ram Lalla placed under central dome outside disputed structure
1950: Suit in Faizabad court for worship right
1959: Nirmohi Akhara files a suit
1961: UP Sunni Waqf Board files suit
Feb 1986: Local court orders opening of site
Dec 6, 1992: Masjid razed; 2 FIRs filed against kar sevaks & BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and others for ‘communal’ speeches
Oct 1993: CBI’s chargesheet accuses Advani, others of criminal conspiracy
May 2001: Special CBI court drops proceedings against Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray and others
May 2010: The Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court dismisses CBI’s plea
Sept 2010: Allahabad HC rules division of disputed area between Sunni Board, Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla
April 19, 2017: SC revives criminal conspiracy charge against Advani, others
Nov 9, 2019: SC grants disputed land in Ayodhya to deity Ram Lalla, alternative five-acre plot to Muslims for mosque
Criminal act brushed aside: Muslim bodies
Prominent Muslim organisations on Wednesday raised questions over the Babri mosque verdict saying it was “far from justice” and not only witnesses were ignored but the criminal act was brushed aside too. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board urged the CBI to file an appeal against the judgment.
Review appeal must
The decision runs contrary to SC judgment and constitutional spirit. Every Indian who has faith in Constitution and in the spirit of communal amity expects the government to file a review appeal. — Randeep Surjewala, Cong spokesperson
Time can alter justice
While I do not wish to comment, I must say time has the capability of changing the course of justice. The evidence tends to get diluted over the years as, among other things, memory of witnesses fades. — Justice MS Liberhan, (Probed babri demolition)