NEW DELHI: Former ministers L. K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi will not be present in the special court in Lucknow on Wednesday when the Babri Masjid demolition verdict is expected to be delivered, NDTV news channel said on Tuesday.
The two former presidents of the Bharatiya Janata Party stand accused with a host of rightwing Hindu activists of criminal conspiracy to raze the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 in defiance of the Supreme Court’s orders.
The law requires them to be present in the court when the verdict in the criminal case is delivered, but they are reportedly citing Covid-19 related worries to stay away from hearing the court’s decision. Mr Advani is pushing 92 and Mr Joshi is 86.
Reports said the court had asked all accused to be present for the judgment but added not everyone can make it because of the Covid pandemic and health concerns.
They are also accused of fomenting enemity between communities.
Other BJP leaders accused in the trial are senior party leaders Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh.
Analysts see the coming verdict as a formality, for a conviction could always be neutralised by a presidential pardon. A conviction can also go into an appeal.
The Supreme Court in a surprising verdict recently awarded the land on which the mosque was located to a Hindu trust to build a temple there.
Reports said Uma Bharti is in hospital with the coronavirus and Kalyan Singh is recovering from Covid. So is another high profile accused, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the chief of the Ram temple trust.
The court will rule whether the BJP leaders and the others accused instigated thousands of Hindu activists or “Kar Sewaks” to bring down the Babri mosque.
Uma Bharti, a former union minister, wrote to BJP Chief JP Nadda that she would not seek bail even if she was convicted. She had also told NDTV: “It does not matter to me what the judgement will be. If I am sent to the gallows, I will be blessed. The place where I was born will be happy.”
Over nearly three decades, there have been many twists and turns in the case. The CBI first filed conspiracy charges against the top BJP leaders and then dropped it.
In 2017, the Supreme Court asked special CBI judge SK Yadav to conduct day-to-day hearings. He was supposed to announce his verdict by 2019 but it was delayed, NDTV said.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020