By S Khan, ViewsHeadlines
New Delhi/ Lucknow: The Babri Masjid Demolition Case is the most sensitive of all court cases in the country now. The Supreme Court has reached an important decision. The apex court has held a number of BJP leaders responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid and has asked court cases be filed against them.
People saddened by the demolition of Babri Masjid have got some sense of justice with this decision. Though the irony is that Lal Krishna Advani, who is the main culprit in this case, is living a life on the margins of BJP and will become even more sidelined from the party after this decision. Recently BJP power holders were dropping hints of making Lal Krishna Advani as a candidate in the upcoming presidential race. But the recent developments will bring his presidential dreams to a sudden halt.
28 years ago the demolition and then the following court cases faced many dramatic turns. During the UPA government, the Liberhan Commission had declared them to be the culprits but the then government had refused to act on the findings of the Liberhand Commission that “the treatment could turn out to be more dangerous than the disease.”
Now Supreme Court has reached a decision based on the charge-sheet submitted by the CBI. According to Supreme Court, a total of 13 BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders would go on trial in this case. They are charged with conspiracy of demolition, giving provocative speeches to incite communal violence and attacking journalists. This case has been engrossed in political and legal quagmire since its conception. Out of a total of 49 accused, 22 are under trail in Lucknow and 8 are under trail in Rae Bareilly. During this time at least 10 accused and 50 witnesses have died. And many accused are now so geriatric that they find it difficult to reach the third floor of the particular Lucknow Court where the court sits in session.
The complete building of Babri Masjid was demolished on 2 December , 1992. FIR was filed in Thana Ram Janam Bhoomi, Ayodhya against scores of unnamed Kar Sevaks by Thana Incharge PM Shukla at 5:15 pm. Charges against the Kar Sevaks were varied and included conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid, violence and robbery. Ten minutes later another police officer, Ganga Prasad Tiwari registered an FIR against 8 people for giving communal and incendiary speeches and inciting people to demolish Babri Masjid at Ram Katha Kunj Sabha Manch. These four people were Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishor, Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Vinay Katiar, Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Ritambhara.
Based on these charges, Advani and some other BJP leaders were arrested by the police on December 8, 1992. As per Aman Vaman, they were kept in Mata Tila Bandh Guest House in Lalitpur. The matter was investigated by Uttar Pradesh CID and Crime Branch. CID filed charge-sheet against the eight accused on February, 1993. A special court was called in session in Lalitpur for this trial. This court was shifted to Rae Bareilly to aid in transport and conveyance. Other than these two charges, 47 further charges are filed against the accused for attacking journalists and breaking their equipments. These charges are filed in Lucknow. Later all the charges and cases were handed over to the CBI by the government. CBI took permission from the court to reopen case number 198 from Rae Bareilly.
On September 9, 1993, the Uttar Pradesh government, with the help of High Court, moved a notification to have a court specifically for the trial of 48 cases related to Babri Masjid demolition. But this notification did not mention case number 198, which was on trial in Rae Bareily. After the request from CBI, this was also included in the notification on 8 October, 1993. But the state government did not get in touch with the High Court as was required by law. Later, Advani took advantage of this legal loophole and neglect by the state government.
CBI filed chargesheet against all 49 accused. Later, it filed more chargesheets against 9 more accused on 9 December, 1994. On 9 September 1994, Special Judge JP Shrivastav declared that there are solid grounds to file cases against all 49 accused because all cases are linked to one incident. The judge called all accused to be indicted on October 17, 1997. Advani and 33 accused defied this order and went to High Court.
After about 3.5 years, on 12 October, 2001, High Court judge Justice Jagdish Bhalla declared that the separate court has done nothing wrong by accepting the charge-sheets because all cases are related to a single incident and the proofs are also unified. This holds solid even if 49 different cases are filed against the accused. The High Court also ruled that the order of indictment given by Judge JP Shrivastava on September 9, 1997 was right and should be followed by the accused.
But Justice Bhall added that Judge Shrivastava did not have legal right to decide on the trial of crime number 198 as the High Court was not involved initially as required by law. Justice Bhalla also suggested that the State Government can take care of this technical difficulty by releasing a new notification. This was the case in which 9 people along with Advani were nominated. Later on May 4, 2001, Judge SK Shukla of special court of Lucknow declared that the trial of case number 198 will stay dropped till the aforementioned technical error is rectified. Though this case had only 9 people nominated, but Judge Shukla added more names and increases the nominated people associated with this case to 21. The people associated with case number 198 included Advani, the then UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackrey. Bal Thackrey is no more now.
On June 12, 2001, the CBI requested the new notification to be issued so that the case 198 can be included to go on trial. But the governments that were in power, ie – Rajnath Singh and then Mayawati, refused to issue new notification. Ironically, BJP has been in power since that request. BJP ruled both Lucknow and Delhi and Lal Krishna Advani held the powerful post of Home Minister.
As per the order of High Court, on January 27, 2003, CBI asked the reopening of the case against Advani and 8 other people for giving communal and incendiary speeches, the trial started but Advani was acquitted by special Judicial Magistrate Vinod Kumar on September 19, 2003. He decided that the trial should only include Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singh and 6 more people. An appeal was made against this decision in High Court. After two years on July 6, 2005, High Court ruled that the case will be against all the actual number of accused, including Lal Krishna Advani. It declared that the decision to acquit Advani was wrong. The case against Advani and 8 more people was reopened in Rae Bareilly.
The CBI wanted Advani and the remaining 8 accused in case number 198 to go on trial in other cases in Lucknow also because they were also involved in the demolition, besides giving speeches. But the CBI did not file any added charge-sheet against these in the Lucknow Court. CBI also appealed the High Court to review the decision of the special court. The CBI said that even if case number 198 is separated from the other cases then also Avani and the other 21 accused are guilty of conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid, so they should go on trial in Lucknow court as well.
After ten years, on 20 May, 2010, High Court justice AK Singh rejected the CBI appeal to review the decision of special court. He said that the decision to postpone trial on Advani and 21 others in case 198 by the special court was right.
After this decision by High Court, on August 18, 2010, the Special Lucknow Court summoned the accused that were still alive for indictment, and hence, 17 years after the demolition, the accused went on trial.
On 9 February 2011, the CBI appealed in the Supreme Court to reject the decision of the High Court and start trial against Advani and 21 other accused on charges of conspiring to demolish Babri Masjid and for giving communal and incendiary speeches. The Supreme Court accepted the appeal and permitted the trial against these accused in the Supreme Court on April 19, 2017.
And with this permission, Supreme Court revived the ghost of Babri Masjid for the accused BJP leaders.
(Translated from Inquilab by Nabila Habib)