SC says Uma, Advani and others to be tried for conspiracy charge.
The Ayodhya issue, which catapulted the Bharatiya Janata Party to the position it is today, is back to haunt it again. The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi and Uma Bharti besides nine others will be tried for conspiring to demolish the Babri mosque at Ayodhya in 1992.
However, another accused, Kalyan Singh, who was the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister at the time of the demolition, has constitutional immunity since he is Rajasthan’s governor. But charges would be framed against him once he leaves office, the court said.
The court accepted the CBI’s plea for revival of conspiracy charges — dropped 16 years ago by a lower court on technical grounds — against them and ordered daily hearing by a Lucknow court, setting a two-year deadline for the trial to be completed.
A Rae Bareli court is trying Mr Advani and others for inflammatory speeches. After the addition of conspiracy charge, the case will shift to Lucknow where karsevaks are being tried for the actual demolition. Mr Advani and others will be sentenced to five years in jail if found guilty in the joint trial. There will not be a fresh trial.
Hindu mobs had demolished the 16th century mosque, claiming it was built on the birthplace of god Ram, triggering some of India’s worst riots since Partition.
Justice Nariman said those accused of crimes, which shook the secular fabric of the Constitution almost 25 years ago, have not been brought to book largely because of the conduct of the CBI in not pursuing the prosecution in a joint trial, and because of curable technical defects not cured by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Meanwhile, the BJP made it clear that Union minister Uma Bharti would not be asked to quit the Cabinet. The party, however, stopped Ms Bharti from going to Ayodhya to offer prayers. Soon after the Supreme Court order, she had announced that she would visit Ayodhya to seek lord Ram’s blessings for an early construction of a grand Ram temple.
However, former BJP MP, Dr Ram Vilas Vedanti, stoked the Ayodhya fire further on Friday when he owned responsibility for the demolition of the Babri mosque in December 1992. Dr Vedanti told a news channel that that it was on his instructions that the kar sevaks had demolished the mosque structure.