New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday sought a report in sealed cover from a lower court judge on how he intended to complete the trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case involving BJP veterans L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti within the April 2019 deadline. A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra also issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea of trial court judge S K Yadav, who is adjudicating the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Maintaining that his promotion to the post of district judge was due, Yadav has sought a direction of the court to this effect. The bench told the counsel for Yadav that it was issuing notice on the plea. “We also issue notice for a report to be presented in a sealed cover as to in what manner is the district judge going to complete the trial with the specified time limit,” the bench said.
Yadav had moved the top court after his promotion was stayed by the Allahabad High Court on the ground that the apex court had directed him to complete the trial. On April 19 last year, the apex court had said BJP stalwarts Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharti would be prosecuted for serious offence of criminal conspiracy in the politically- sensitive 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case and ordered day-to-day trial to be concluded in two years, that is April 19, 2019. The apex court had then dubbed the demolition of the medieval-era monument a “crime” that had shaken the “secular fabric of the Constitution” and allowed the CBI’s plea on restoration of criminal conspiracy charge against the VVIP accused.
“There shall be no de novo (fresh) trial. There shall be no transfer of the Judge conducting the trial until the entire trial concludes. The case shall not be adjourned on any ground except when the sessions court finds it impossible to carry on the trial for that particular date,” the apex court had then said.
The apex court had made it clear that if the trial was adjourned, then it should be fixed on the next day or a closely proximate date and the reasons for this shall be recorded in writing. “The sessions court will complete the trial and deliver the judgement within a period of 2 years from the date of receipt of this judgement,” it had said. Besides the three leaders, the accused against whom the conspiracy charge would have be invoked are Vinay Katiar, Sadhvi Ritambara and Vishnu Hari Dalmia, who were earlier being tried at Rae Bareilly.
There were two sets of cases relating to the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992.
The conspiracy charge against 13 accused including Advani, Joshi and Bharti was dropped in the case, the trial of which was being held at a special court in Rae Bareli. The second set of case was against unknown ‘karsevaks’ who were in and around the disputed structure and had pulled it down. The trial against them was being held in a Lucknow court.
The apex court had ordered clubbing of the separate trials in the trial courts of Rae Bareli and Lucknow, to be conducted in the UP capital. The appeals were filed by one Haji Mahboob Ahmad (since dead) and the CBI against dropping of conspiracy charges against 21 accused including the top BJP leaders, eight of whom have died.
A supplementary charge sheet was filed against eight persons, but not the 13 who were discharged for plotting the demolition. Besides BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and Bharti, conspiracy charges were dropped against Kalyan Singh (currently the Governor of Rajasthan), Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore (both have since died).
The others against whom the conspiracy charge was dropped include Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Satish Pradhan, C R Bansal, Ashok Singhal (now deceased), Sadhvi Ritambhara, Mahant Avaidhynath (now deceased), R V Vedanti, Paramhans Ram Chandra Das (now deceased), Jagdish Muni Maharaj, B L Sharma, Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar and Moreshwar Save (now deceased).
The appeals had sought setting aside of the Allahabad High Court’s order of May 20, 2010, dropping section 120B (criminal conspiracy) under the IPC while upholding a special court’s decision. The CBI had charge-sheeted Advani and 20 others under sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) of the IPC. It had subsequently invoked charges under section 120B (criminal conspiracy), which was quashed by the special court whose decision was upheld by the high court.
While upholding the special court’s order, the high court had said the CBI at no point of time, either during the trial at Rae Bareily or in its revision petition, had ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders