NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the revival of criminal conspiracy charges in the destruction of the Babri Masjid against senior BJP leaders, including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti.
Using their extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142, a bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton F. Nariman transferred the Rae Bareilly case languishing in the magistrate court and clubbed it with the Lucknow case pending before a CBI special court.
According to The Hindu, the Rae Bareilly case accuses Mr Advani, Dr Joshi and six other BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders of giving provocative speeches that promoted enmity and threatened national integration.
It said the Lucknow case was against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” and dealt with the actual act of demolition and violence. With the clubbing of the cases and revival of the conspiracy charges, the senior BJP leaders would be tried under the composite charge sheet filed by the CBI on Oct 5, 1993.
Justice Nariman, who wrote the judgement for the bench, specifically called out the names of Mr Advani and Dr Joshi while pronouncing the verdict in the open court to underline the fact that the criminal conspiracy charges had been revived against them.
With the clubbing of the cases, the Supreme Court has expressed agreement with the CBI that both cases — the actual demolition case and the speeches allegedly made by these leaders — are pari materia or part of the same action.
The court, however, exempted Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister at the time of demolition, from facing trial as of now.
Justice Nariman held that Mr Singh is protected from criminal prosecution by the constitutional immunity his post allows him under Article 361. But
the sessions judge will commence prosecution against him for criminal conspiracy the moment he steps down.
The court ordered day-to-day trial to be completed in two years. The trial judge would not be transferred till the case was over and there would be no adjournments given, it said. If an “impossible” situation arose, the trial court would record the reason for the adjournment, it said.
The Supreme Court clarified that this would be no de novo or fresh trial, which would entail fresh framing of charges, but only involve the joining of criminal conspiracy into the existing case.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017