Directs Lucknow CBI court to conduct joint trial of cases, deliver verdict in two years

Invoking the maxim ‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall’, the Supreme Court on Wednesday exercised its extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142 to revive criminal conspiracy charges against BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, in connection with the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.

“This court has the power, nay, the duty to do complete justice in a case when found necessary. In the present case, crimes which shake the secular fabric of the Constitution… have allegedly been committed almost 25 years ago,” a Bench of Justices PC Ghose and Rohinton F Nariman observed in a 40-page judgment.

The court transferred the Rae Bareilly case, languishing in a Magistrate court, to the CBI Court in Lucknow for a joint trial. It ordered the Lucknow CBI Judge to hold day-to-day trial and pronounce judgment in two years. It forbade the transfer of the judge and also adjournments. Any grievances, it said, should be addressed to the Supreme Court.

In the Rae Bareilly case, the BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders stand accused of having given speeches to promote enmity. The Lucknow case, investigated by the CBI, is against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” and deals with the demolition and violence. With the clubbing of the cases and the revival of conspiracy charge, the leaders will be tried under the composite chargesheet filed by the CBI on October 5, 1993.

The Bench agreed with the chargesheet’s finding that the criminal conspiracy by the leaders and the demolition of the mosque by kar sewaks warranted a joint trial.

Other leaders charged

Besides Advani, Joshi and Bharti, the court ordered the Lucknow Court to frame conspiracy charges against Vinay Katiar, Sadhvi Ritambara, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma and Satish Chandra Nagar. The court has kept the trial against Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, who was UP Chief Minister at the time of the demolition, in abeyance. It held that Singh was protected from prosecution by the constitutional immunity his Governor’s post allows him under Article 361.

But the Lucknow Judge will frame charges and commence criminal prosecution against Singh the moment he steps down as Governor.

If convicted, the accused persons would face punishment of 3-5 years. This would mean that they would be barred from contesting elections for six years following the completion of their sentence.

Justice Nariman, who wrote the judgment, specifically called out the names of Advani and Joshi while pronouncing the judgment. The judgment snubbed the two for raising objections about how the Supreme Court’s use of its powers under Article 142 would violate their fundamental rights.

The court accused the conduct of the CBI over the years of not pursuing its efforts for a joint trial although a Single Judge of the Allahabad High Court had upheld the composite chargesheet in February 2001.

Flays UP govt

The court blamed the Uttar Pradesh government for refusing to cure a “technical defect”, which gave room for 21 accused persons to get a Sessions Court to drop proceedings against them in May 2001. The trials have largely remained frozen in time since 2001.

Chronology of events in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case:

December 1992: Two FIRs filed in the case. One against unknown karsevaks for demolition of the mosque. The other named BJP leaders Advani, MM Joshi and others for allegedly giving ‘communal’ speeches before demolition.

October 1993: The CBI files composite charge sheet accusing Advani and others of conspiracy.

May 4, 2001: Special CBI court drops proceedings against accused including Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti, Bal Thackeray and others.

Nov 2, 2004: The CBI challenges before the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, the dropping of proceedings against BJP leaders on technical grounds. Court issues notices.

May 20, 2010: High court dismisses plea. Says no merit in CBI’s revision petition.

Feb, 2011: CBI moves Supreme Court against high court order.

March 6, 2017: SC indicates it may consider reviving conspiracy charge against the BJP leaders in Babri Masjid demolition case.

March 21: SC suggests fresh attempts to resolve Ayodhya dispute.

April 6: SC favours time—bound completion of trial in the case and reserves order on CBI’s plea.

April 19: SC restores criminal conspiracy charge against leaders including Advani, Joshi and union cabinet minister Uma Bharti in the case and clubs the trial in the matter pending against VIPs and karsevaks.http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/babri-case-sc-revives-conspiracy-charges-against-advani-joshi/article9648477.ece

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