The Supreme Court today reserved its order on a petition seeking restoration of conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders including L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
The apex court will also decide whether the trial of the VVIP accused can be transferred from a court in Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
There were two sets of cases relating the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992. The first involved unnamed ‘karsevaks’, the trial in which is taking place in a Lucknow court in Lucknow, while the second set of cases relates to the VVIPs in a Rae Bareli court.
A bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman also indicated that they may order holding of joint trial of the two sets of cases by transferring the trial from Raebareli to a Lucknow court.
The bench also said since 25 years have already passed, in the interest of justice it will consider ordering a timebound trial on day-to-day basis, to be completed preferably within two years.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for Advani and Joshi, vociferously opposed the proposal for holding joint trial and transferring their case from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
The CBI clarified that it was not making any submission on the issue of the trial of the VVIP accused but restricting itself to restoration of the charge of conspiracy against the accused.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the intervenors, supported the proposal for a joint trial, contending the two sets of cases had arisen from one incident which allegedly involved single conspiracy.
The apex court also gave opportunity to all the parties to file their written submission by Tuesday.
The apex court had earlier decided to examine the appeal against dropping of conspiracy charge against Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharti and 10 others.
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 de novo (afresh) proceedings.
The conspiracy charge against 13 accused including Advani, Joshi and Bharti was dropped in the case, the trial of which is being held at a special court in Rae Bareli.
The second set of case was against unknown ‘karsevaks’ who were in and around the disputed structure and pulled it down. The trial against them is being held in a Lucknow court.
The appeals were filed by one Haji Mahboob Ahmad (since dead) and the CBI against dropping of conspiracy charges against 21 accused including BJP leaders Advani, Joshi. Eight of them later died.
A supplementary charge sheet was filed against eight persons but not the 13 who were discharged for plotting the demolition.
Besides BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and Bharti, conspiracy charges were dropped against Kalyan Singh (currently the 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).
The appeals have sought setting aside the Allahabad High Court’s order of May 20, 2010, dropping 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 the party’s instance.
The agency had said all decisions by it were taken strictly in accordance with the provisions of the 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 May 4, 2001 order of the special court which had directed dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against them.
CBI had charge-sheeted 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, ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.