[(L) Union Minister Uma Bharti hugging senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi after demolition od Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. (R) LK Advani and other BJP ledaers in a meeting (File Photo)]
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday indicated that LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and other BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders may face trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case. The 17th century mosque was demolished on December 06, 1992.
The Supreme Court also came up with the option of ordering a joint trial of cases arising out of the two FIRs lodged in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
"There are 13 persons who were discharged only on technical grounds. Today, we are saying why can't we club both the cases and have a joint trial," a bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman said.
"We will not accept the discharge on technical grounds and we will allow supplementary charge sheet," the bench said.
These observations were made orally during a brief hearing by the bench, which posted the matter for further hearing on March 22.
Opposing this, Advani's lawyer had told the court that if conspiracy charges are added, then 183 witnesses who had testified in a lower court would have to be called again.
Of the two cases in the Babri Masjid demolitioncase, one is against Advani and the other BJP leaders who were on the dais at a raised platform called "Ram Katha Kunj" around 200 metres from the mosque site, where many provocative speeches were allegedly made.
The other case is against lakhs of unknown "kar sevaks" who were in and around the disputed structure and are accused of pulling down the three domes in an act that changed the face of Indian politics and caused a deep rift between two communities.
The Allahabad High Court had earlier dropped the conspiracy charges against LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh and other BJP and VHP leaders. But now the Supreme Court was hearing a petition by the CBI challenging Allahabad High Court’s order of acquittal and a petition by Mehboob Ahmad.
In the appeal, it has been sought to set aside the Allahabad High Court's order of May 20, 2010, which had dropped section 120B (criminal conspiracy) under the IPC while upholding a special court's decision.
In September 2015, the CBI had told the apex court that its decision-making was not influenced by anyone and the dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against senior BJP leaders in the case was not at its instance.
"The decision-making process of the CBI is completely independent. All decisions are taken based on correct facts in the light of the extant law. There is no question of any person, body or institution influencing the decision-making process of CBI or the manner in which it pursues its cases in courts," the agency had said in an affidavit.
The agency had said its decision-making process was carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of CBI Crime Manual and there was a "hierarchic" mechanism that allowed officers at each level to take decisions and make reasoned recommendations in an independent manner.
The May 2010 order of the high court had said there was no merit in CBI's revision petition against the May 4, 2001 order of the special court which had directed dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against them.
CBI had chargesheeted 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) of IPC 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.
Kalyan Singh, who is now the governor of Rajasthan, was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh when this ancient mosque was razed down by kar sevaks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and other right wing Hindu extremists who believed it to be the birth place of Lord Ram.
This demolition is one of the biggest events in post-Independence India which has every now and then given rise to communal tensions across the country claiming hundreds of lives. RRS and affiliated organisations have been pushing for the construction of Ram Temple at the site of the mosque.