Free Press Journal

Babri case returns to haunt BJP veterans


Sixteen years after a lower court dropped charges of criminal conspiracy against BJP veterans Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others in the Babri Masjid demolition case, the Supreme Court has decided to revive the charge on an appeal by the CBI. The case against demolishing the 16th century Babri Masjid, with BJP leaders claiming that it had been built on the birthplace of Lord Rama where a temple existed before Babar built the mosque over it, has been hanging fire for 25 years but the new order by the apex court has set the stage for a belated but speedy trial in the Lucknow sessions court.The court said no party shall be granted adjournment without the sessions judge being satisfied of the reasons for it and a day-to-day trial would be conducted which should be concluded within two years. A two-judge bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman also directed the CBI to ensure that prosecution witnesses appear on each and every date for recording of evidence in the case. It, however, clarified that there would be no de novo (fresh) trial in the matter. But in the inordinately long period of delay, much has happened. In the immediate aftermath of the demolition, an estimated 3,000 people had died in communal riots. The Babri case is cited as an example of judicial delays by the Indian judiciary.
There were two sets of cases relating to the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992. The first involved unnamed ‘karsevaks’, the trial of which was taking place in a Lucknow court, while the second trial involving cases related to the political leaders was taking place in a Rae Bareli court. The two cases now stand merged. Besides BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and Bharti, conspiracy charges were dropped against Kalyan Singh, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore (both have since died). Kalyan Singh, who was chief minister of UP at the time of the demolition, stands protected for now due to the immunity enjoyed by his current office as the Governor of Rajasthan. However, charges will be framed against him once he ceases to be the governor.
With the next general elections two years away, what effect the final judgement would have on the shape of Indian politics if it comes on the eve of elections is a big question mark. To BJP’s relief, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah were not part of the scene then. Uma Bharti was the only current minister involved. With presidential elections four months away, Advani, who was being tipped as a probable NDA candidate, may have his ambitions dashed.