The Supreme Court revived the conspiracy charge in the Babri Masjid demolition case against BJP and VHP leaders including L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, triggering calls for the resignation of Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the BJP and the government would not act against any of the leaders. “This case is going on since 1993. Today, no new situation has arisen.”
Advani and Joshi were among the top contenders for the post of President after Pranab Mukherjee retires in July. Uma Bharti is a union minister and Kalyan Singh is the Rajasthan Governor.
Hours after the verdict, Joshi and Advani held a brief meeting.
All four along with Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambara, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia were facing trial for making inflammatory speeches before the 16th-century mosque was razed in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya town on December 6, 1992.
Giriraj Kishore and Singhal, who were key members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), have since died. Katiyar is a Rajya Sabha member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Restoring the conspiracy charge, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman transferred the trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
Justice Nariman said since Kalyan Singh had constitutional immunity from prosecution, the trial court would proceed against him when he ceases to be Governor.
The verdict followed a Central Bureau of Investigation plea challenging the May 2010 Allahabad High Court order quashing the conspiracy charge against Advani and others.
The Congress demanded a speedy trial while the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) sought action against Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh.
“The law of the land has prevailed. We hope there will be a speedy trial and all the guilty will be punished and face the consequences,” Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said.
“It is a known fact that the Babri demolition as a spontaneous reaction has been proven wrong and it was indeed a political conspiracy,” Jha said.
The CPI said Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh should step down on moral grounds. The IUML said Kalyan Singh should not cling to technicalities by speaking of immunity, adding Uma Bharti too should quit.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad said Advani’s dream of becoming the President of India had now been dashed.
Blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the twist in the case, he said: “Advani is now out of the race for the President’s post.” He added that Advani was a “scapegoat” (bali ka bakra) in the demolition case.
Uma Bharti refused to resign, saying the charges of the conspiracy had not yet been proved. She said there was no conspiracy behind the mosque razing.
Katiyar took a similar line. “Why would I resign? There is nothing in it that I should resign.”
On December 6, 1992, all these leaders were present in Ayodhya when hundreds of mostly VHP activists stormed the three-domed Babri mosque and brought it down, triggering communal violence in the country.
The Supreme Court also said the trial court in Lucknow would frame additional charges against Advani and others and proceed against them.
It said there would be no de-novo trial and the trial court judge would not be transferred until the trial got over. The trial should end in two years, the top court said, without adjournments.
The court also said that the trial court in Lucknow would frame additional charges against Advani and others and proceed against them. Directing the trial court to complete the trial in two years time, the top court said it would proceed on a day-to-day basis and there would be no adjournments.
The court said that adjournment would take place only if the trial court judge feels that it was impossible to proceed and fix the next date of hearing after recording the reasons for the adjournment.
The bench had earlier reserved the order on April 6 after the CBI and other petitioners had sought the restoration of the conspiracy charge against the senior Bharatiya Janata Party and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders.
On April 6, before reserving the order, the top court bench had indicated that as far as conspiracy charge was concerned it may invoke extraordinary powers under the Constitution’s Article 142 and transfer the ongoing trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow so that eight leaders, including Advani and Joshi, could be tried for conspiracy along with 13 others.
Both Advani and Joshi had opposed the top court taking recourse to Article 142 for transferring the trial to Lucknow and revival of the conspiracy charge.
They had contended that their fundamental rights under Article 14 and Article 21 could not be eclipsed by the top court taking recourse to its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
However, the bench asked: “What about Article 21 when it comes to the rights of the victims. Article 21 has many facets.”
It then referred to a nine-judge constitution bench judgement which said: “You can’t show fundamental rights to the court in the exercise of its powers under Article 142.”
The court had indicated that trial would take place in a time-bound manner and had asked all the parties to file their written submissions by April 11.
Earlier on April 6, Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the CBI, told the bench that the High Court verdict dropping the conspiracy charge against eight BJP leaders must go.
Besides other charges, 13 people including present Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, Satish Pradhan, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Avaidyanath, Paramhans Ramchandra, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Mahamandaleshwar Jagdish Muni Maharaj, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das Chola, Satish Nagar, Moreshwar Save and Baikunth Lal Sharma are also facing trial for conspiracy charges in Lucknow. (IANS)