Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti will be tried for criminal conspiracy in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case as the Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the CBI plea to restore the charge against them.
The court also clubbed the trial in the matter pending against the leaders and 'karsevaks' and ordered day-to-day trial with the proceedings to be completed in two years.
"We have allowed the CBI appeal against the Allahabad High Court judgement with certain directions," a Bench comprising Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman said.
The apex court, however, noted that Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh enjoys Constitutional immunity and can be tried only after he ceases to hold the office. Kalyan Singh was the chief minister of UP in 1992.
Later, the BJP has said it will study in detail the Supreme Court's verdict before offering comments.
Its senior leader and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, asserted that his party highly respects its senior leaders.
What the apex court said on the trial
# The apx court said separate trials being conducted in trial courts at Raebareli and Lucknow will be clubbed and conducted in the capital of Uttar Pradesh only.
# It also said that the trial judge of Lucknow "shall not be transferred" till conclusion and delivery of judgement in the sensational case.
# The court further said that no party shall be granted adjournment without the sessions judge being satisfied of the reasons for it.
# It also directed the probe agency CBI to ensure that prosecution witnesses appear on each and every date for recording of evidence in the case and the trial court should start the proceedings within four weeks from today (April 19).
# It, however, made it clear that there would be no de novo (fresh) trial in the matter.
# The bench also directed that its order should be followed in letter and spirit and granted liberty to the parties to approach it if its directions are not followed.
Two sets of cases
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 is taking place in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relate to the leaders in a Raebareli court.
On April 6, the bench had indicated that it may order holding of joint trial of the two sets of cases by transferring the trial from Rae Bareli to the Lucknow court.
It had also said since 25 years have already passed, in the interest of justice, it would consider ordering time-bound trial on day-to-day basis, to be completed preferably within two years.
Senior advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for Advani and Joshi, had vociferously opposed the proposal for holding joint trial and transferring their case from Raebareli to Lucknow.
The CBI had clarified that it was not making any submission on the issue of the trial of the VVIPs accused but restricting itself to restoration of the charge of conspiracy against them.
The apex court had earlier decided to examine the appeal against dropping of conspiracy charge against Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti and 10 others.
The clubbing of two FIRs was opposed by the counsel for the accused on the ground that there were different sets of persons named as accused in the two cases, the trial of which were at an advanced stage at two different places. They were of the view that joint trial would lead to the beginning of de novo (afresh) proceedings.
The conspiracy charge against 13 accused including Advani, Joshi and Bharti was dropped in the case, the trial of which is 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 pulled it down. The trial against them is being held in a Lucknow court.
CBI's appeal against dropping of charges
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 them 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 have sought setting aside 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.
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) 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 CBI at no point of time, either during the trial at Rae Bareily or in its revision petition, ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.
Uma Bharti unfazed
Unfazed by the apex court order that she be tried for "conspiracy" in the Babri mosque demolition case, Union minister Uma Bharti has said she is ready to sacrifice her life for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya.
"Grand Ram temple in Ayodhya is my dream. Ready to go to prison or be hanged for India and Ram Mandir," the senior BJP leader told reporters here.
She said she will go to Ayodhya tonight and visit the makeshift temple to seek Ram Lalla's blessings.
Asserting she was "proud, unapologetic" and does not repent her role in the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign, Bharti said she is ready to face whatever punishments come her way as she fights for the construction of Ram temple.
She dismissed the conspiracy charges.
"There was no conspiracy. Everything was in the open. I took part in Ram temple campaign with pride and confidence. I had given up the post of Chief Minister for the sake of the tri-colour.
"I will do whatever it takes to see the Ram temple is constructed...Ram temple will be built, koi maai ka laal use rok nahi sakta (no one has the power to stop it from being built)," Bharti said, adding she was present at the mosque site on December 6, 1992.
The Babri mosque was demolished on the day by a rampaging mob.
On the Congress party, Bharti said she will not reply to any of its allegations on the issue.
"Sonia Gandhi was at Rajiv Gandhi's home when the 1984 Sikh riots happened. Does this mean Soniaji was part of conspiracy?" she asked.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad has alleged that the Supreme Court order allowing trial of top BJP leaders in the Babri Masjid case was a "well-thought-out politics" of the Prime Minister to remove L K Advani's name from the Presidential race.
"The CBI is under the influence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It stood in the Supreme Court and sought permission to run trial against Advani and others in the Babri Masjid demolition case," Prasad alleged.
"Since Advani's name was in circulation as a probable for the post of President, Modi through well-thought-out politics struck out his (Advani's) name," he alleged.
"It is well known that the CBI does what the government desires," the RJD chief claimed.
"The BJP makes no difference between itself and others while playing dangerous politics against anyone considered opposed to Modi," he claimed.
"Guilty should be punished"
The Congress has said the guilty in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case should be punished.
"The Supreme Court has spoken. Let justice be done and the guilty punished,? Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, reacting to a Supreme Court order restoring a criminal conspiracy charge against BJP leaders L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti.
The Congress also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that his ministers maintained a "high standard of morality". Uma Bharti is the Minister for Water Resources in the Modi Cabinet.
"The law is equal for everyone irrespective of stature, caste, creed, religion or region," he said.
However, Union minister Arun Jaitley virtually ruled out resignation of Uma Bharti from the Cabinet and described as "hypothetical" the possibility of the ruling having any bearing in selection of candidates for presidential and vice presidential polls.
"This case is going on since 1993. Somehow it is going on and no new situation has arisen. So the situation which was prevailing will continue," he told reporters in New Delhi.
With inputs from PTI