Babri Masjid demolition verdict: All accused acquitted by special court

Nearly three decades after the Babri Masjid was razed by Sangh Parivar mob in Uttar Pradesh, all accused including former deputy Prime Minister LK Advani in the Babri Masjid demolition case acquitted by the Special CBI court on Wednesday.

Reading out the 2,000-page order, Judge Judge SK Yadav observed that evidences against the accused are not strong enough and the Babri Mosque demolition incident was not pre-planned.

The accused in the case included BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, former ministers Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh, among others.

“The leaders present at the site during the demolition were trying to stop the mob and not incite them. Stones pelting started from behind the disputed structure. Ashok Singhal wanted to keep the structure safe because it had statues of Hindu deities,” said Judge.

Total six accused including Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharti did not appear physically in the court for the hearing today. They appeared through video-conferencing though to hear the verdict.

On December 6, 1992, thousands of Hindu nationalist mobs tore down the Babri Masjid in the northern town of Ayodhya, in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid, which was constructed under the rule of the first Mughal Emperor Babar, triggered anti-Muslim pogroms across India, resulting in the death of over 2000 mulsims. Riots and clashes ensued across cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bhopal and several others. The riots in Mumbai alone, largely organised by the Shiv Sena, caused 900 deaths and 9,000 crores worth of property damage.

Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharti were on the dais near the Babri Masjid at the time of the demolition on December 6, 1992. The investigating agencies said they instigated the crowd with their hate speeches.

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Background

The CBI filed its chargesheet in 1993 against 49 accused, of whom 17 died during the course of the trial. Among whom Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray was also included.

The Supreme Court in April 2017 used its extraordinary constitutional powers under Article 142 to restore the criminal conspiracy charges framed against the accused and overruled the Allahabad High Court judgment dropping the charges against 21 of the top accused persons. The Supreme Court had termed the demolition of Babri Masjid a crime that shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution. The Allahabad High Court had in 2010 upheld a special CBI court’s decision to drop conspiracy charges against Advani and others in 2001.

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Special judge Surendra Kumar Yadav on 30 May 2017, had framed charges against senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, his BJP colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh, Lallu Singh, Sakshi Maharaj and Vinay Katiyar, and several others, such as Sadhvi Ritambara and Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. Many of the accused are former or present Members of Parliament or members of State Legislatures.

A total of 49 FIRs had been filed in the case but the case deals with two main crimes. The first crime (no. 197 of 1992) was alleged against more than one lakh kar sevaks on charges of dacoity, robbery, causing of hurt, injuring and defiling places of public worship, promoting enmity between two groups on grounds of religion and so on. The second FIR (no. 198) was lodged against eight persons: Advani, Bharti, Katiyar, Joshi, Ritambara, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore and V.H. Dalmia. Singhal and Kishore are no longer alive. While the trial in the conspiracy case was being held in a Lucknow court, the hearing of the case involving alleged instigation of the kar sevaks was being held at a Rae Bareli court.