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Babri Masjid case: SC keeps options open on conspiracy charge

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-03-2017 PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday kept its options open on examining the dropping of conspiracy charge against accused like L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi and Uma Bharti in the demolition of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri structure in Ayodhya in 1992.

The apex court also came up with the option of ordering a joint trial of cases arising out of the two FIRs lodged in the wake of the demolition of the disputed structure.

“There are 13 persons who were discharged only on technical grounds. Today, we are saying why can’t we club both the cases and have a joint trial,” a bench comprising justices P.C. Ghose and R.F. Nariman said. “We will not accept the discharge on technical grounds and we will allow supplementary charge sheet,” the bench said.

These observations were made orally during a brief hearing by the bench, which posted the matter for further hearing on 22 March. However, the clubbing of two FIRs was opposed by the counsel for the accused on the ground that there were different sets of persons named as accused in the two cases, the trial of which were at an advanced stage at two different places. They were of the view that joint trial would lead to the beginning of proceedings de novo (afresh).

Altogether, 13 persons including Advani, Joshi and Bharti were discharged of conspiracy charge in the case, the trial of which is being held at a special court in Raebareli. The second set of case was against unknown ‘karsevaks’ who were in and around the disputed structure and the trial was being held at a court in Lucknow.

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The appeals were filed by one Haji Mahboob Ahmad (since dead) and the CBI against dropping of conspiracy charges against BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and 19 others for demolition of the disputed medieval structure on 6 December, 1992.

During the hearing, the bench also said that supplementary charge sheet was filed against eight persons but not against the 13 who were discharged. Besides BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and Bharti, conspiracy charges were dropped against Kalyan Singh (presently governor of Rajasthan), Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore (both have since died).

The others against whom the conspiracy charge was dropped include Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Satish Pradhan, C R Bansal, Ashok Singhal (now deceased), Sadhvi Ritambhara, Mahant Avaidhynath (now deceased), R V Vedanti, Paramhans Ram Chandra Das (now deceased), Jagdish Muni Maharaj, B L Sharma, Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar and Moreshwar Save (now deceased).

In the appeal, it has been sought to set aside the Allahabad High Court’s order of 20 May, 2010, which had dropped section 120B (criminal conspiracy) under the IPC while upholding a special court’s decision. In September 2015, the CBI had told the apex court that its decision-making was not influenced by anyone and the dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against senior BJP leaders in the case was not at its instance.

“The decision-making process of the CBI is completely independent. All decisions are taken based on correct facts in the light of the extant law. There is no question of any person, body or institution influencing the decision-making process of CBI or the manner in which it pursues its cases in courts,” the agency had said in an affidavit.

The agency had said its decision-making process was carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of CBI Crime Manual and there was a “hierarchic” mechanism that allowed officers at each level to take decisions and make reasoned recommendations in an independent manner.

The May 2010 order of the high court had said there was no merit in CBI’s revision petition against the 4 May, 2001 order of the special court which had directed dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against them. CBI had chargesheeted Advani and 20 others under sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours, etc circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) of the IPC.

It had subsequently invoked charges under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC which was quashed by the special court whose decision was upheld by the high court. While upholding the special court’s order, the high court had said CBI at no point of time, either during the trial at Rae Bareily or in its revision petition, had ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.

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