New Delhi, Apr 20: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and union minister Uma Bharti face criminal conspiracy charges for their role in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
The apex court observed that the case shook the secular fabric of the Constitution 25 years ago. The top court also stated that the accused could not be tried because of “technical defects” and the conduct of the CBI and the Uttar Pradesh government.
A bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman ordered the separate trials being conducted in trial courts at Raebareli and Lucknow to be clubbed and conducted in the capital of Uttar Pradesh. It directed completion of the trial in two years.
There will be no fresh trial because of framing of conspiracy charges against the senior BJP leaders, the court said. However, the Lucknow court would face an onerous task because of about 800 witnesses in the case.
Allowing the CBI's plea, the bench directed, “The court of sessions (Lucknow) will frame an additional charge under Section 120-B (of the IPC) against Advani, Vinay Katiar, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Ritambara, Joshi and Vishnu Hari Dalmia.”
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh could be spared for now for being the Rajasthan governor.
He enjoys immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution as long as he holds Governor's office. The sessions court will frame charges and move against him as soon as he ceases to be governor, the apex court said.
In a strong observation against the CBI, the bench said, “In the present case, crimes which shake the secular fabric of the Constitution of India have allegedly been committed almost 25 years ago.”
The accused have not been brought to book largely because of the conduct of the CBI in not pursuing the prosecution of the alleged offenders in a joint trial, and because of technical defects, which were easily curable, but not cured by the state government,” it said.
The bench rejected the plea of Advani and others that the court should not exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 to order transfer of the pending matter before the Raebareli court to the Lucknow sessions court. “Almost 25 years have gone and yet we are solemnly reminded that Respondent Nos 4 and 5’s fundamental rights (of fair trial) should not be curtailed by any order passed under Article 142,” the bench said.
The Lucknow court was directed to conduct proceedings on a day-to-day basis until the conclusion of the trial. “There shall be no transfer of the judge conducting the trial until the entire trial concludes. The case shall not be adjourned on any ground except when the sessions court finds it impossible to carry on the trial for that particular date. In such an event, on grant of adjournment to the next day or a closely proximate date, reasons for the same shall be recorded in writing.”
The court also directed the CBI to ensure some witnesses were examined on every date of the hearing.