New Delhi: In a major blow to ruling BJP patriarchs Lal Krishna Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti, the Supreme Court on Wednesday revived the charge of criminal conspiracy against them and others for demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in December 1992.
The charges for which Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti and others will be tried entails a punishment ranging from two to five years imprisonment.
The Bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Rohinton Fali Nariman also transferred their case from Rai Bareli to the CBI court in Lucknow and tagged it with those being tried for the actual demolition. The apex court also ordered a day-to-day hearing with no adjournments so that the trial can be completed in two years. The judges were upset that the case has been dragging on for more than 25 years.
The apex court, which dubbed the demolition of the medieval era monument as a “crime” which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution”, allowed CBI’s plea on restoration of criminal conspiracy charge against the VVIP accused. However, the top court said Kalyan Singh, who is now the Governor of Rajasthan, is entitled to immunity under Constitution as long as he remains in gubernatorial position.
The court came down heavily on the CBI for the delay of 25 years in the trial and said, “The accused persons 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 which were easily curable, but which were not cured by the state government.”
The restoration of the conspiracy charge dims prospects of Advani being projected by the BJP as its candidate for the President of India. He and Dr Joshi have already been sidelined in the party.
Uma Bharti was quick to call a press conference to assert that there was “no conspiracy” in razing the mosque built on the land by demolishing the Ram temple as everything was done “khullam-khulla”. She ruled out her resignation from the Union Cabinet and said she was going to Ayodhya on Thursday for Lord Ram’s blessings for recognising her humble contribution even as Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Pramod Tiwari sought her dismissal from the Cabinet.
BJP MP Vinay Katiyar, who also faces conspiracy charge for being in the forefront of the demolition as founder-president of the Bajrang Dal, asserted that there was no conspiracy against the mosque and he is “ready to go to jail for a temple