The Supreme Court on Wednesday revived the conspiracy charge in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case against senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti, among others.
Restoring the conspiracy charge, a bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman also transferred their trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Nariman said that since Kalyan Singh is currently the Governor of Rajasthan and enjoys constitutional immunity from being prosecuted, the trial court would proceed against him the day he ceases to be Governor.
The court also said that the trial court in Lucknow would frame additional charges against Advani and others and proceed against them.
The court said that there would be no de-novo trial and the trial court judge would not be transferred till trial was over.
Directing the trial court to complete the trial in two years time, the top court said it would proceed on day-to-day basis and there would be no adjournments.
The court said that adjournment would take place only if the trial court judge feels that it was impossible to proceed and fix the next date of hearing after recording the reasons for the adjournment.
The apex court verdict was on a CBI plea challenging the May 2010 Allahabad High Court order quashing the conspiracy charge against Advani and others.
The bench had earlier reserved the order on April 6 after the CBI and other petitioners had sought the restoration of conspiracy charge against the senior BJP and VHP leaders.
Advani and Joshi, along with Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar (BJP), Sadhvi Rithambra, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia (VHP) were facing trial for making speeches from the dais at Ramkatha Kunj prior to the razing of the 16th century mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, by Hindu right-wing activists.
The spot was just 200 metres away from the disputed structure.
Kishore and Singhal have since died.
On April 6, before reserving the order, the top court bench had indicated that as far as conspiracy charge was concerned it may invoke extraordinary powers under the Constitution’s Article 142 and transfer the ongoing trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow so that eight leaders, including Advani and Joshi, could be tried for conspiracy along with 13 others.
Both Advani and Joshi had opposed the top court taking recourse to Article 142 for transferring the trial to Lucknow and revival of the conspiracy charge.
They had contended that their fundamental rights under Article 14 and Article 21, could not be eclipsed by the top court taking recourse to its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.
However, the bench asked: “What about Article 21 when it comes to the rights of the victims. Article 21 has many facets.”
It then referred to a nine-judge constitution bench judgment which said: “You can’t show fundamental rights to the court in exercise of its powers under Article 142.”
The court had indicated that trial would take place in a time-bound manner and had asked all the parties to file their written submissions by April 11.
Earlier on April 6, Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the CBI, told the bench that the High Court verdict dropping the conspiracy charge against eight BJP leaders must go.
Besides other charges, 13 people including present Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, Satish Pradhan, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Avaidyanath, Paramhans Ramchandra, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Mahamandaleshwar Jagdish Muni Maharaj, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das Chola, Satish Nagar, Moreshwar Save and Baikunth Lal Sharma are also facing trial for conspiracy charges in Lucknow.
Meanwhile, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said she would not resign as Union Minister and that the charges of conspiracy in the case have not yet been proven against her.
“I am not one of those who is greedy for power. I resigned as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh after a case was registered against me in the Tiranga (national flag) case,” she told reporters in Delhi.
Asked whether she would resign as Union Minister as the Congress party has demanded her resignation, Uma said: “The charge has not been proved.”
“There was no conspiracy. Everything was open. The question of conspiracy does not arise,” she added.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad said in Patna that Advani’s last dream to become President of India is not possible any more after the Supreme Court order.
“Advani is now out of race for the President’s post. He was projected as a strong candidate for the top constitutional post, but it is not possible anymore,” Lalu told the media.
“After Advani was denied to become the Prime Minister of India, now he has also lost the chance to become the President of India,” he added.
Lalu attacked the BJP, saying that Advani was made a “scapegoat” in the case.
Lalu said the CBI is under the “control” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who “used it to sideline and oust Advani from the race for the President”.
Lalu said Advani was ousted from the race for President as part of a “well-planned political strategy”. “After all, Advani and his supporters in the BJP were sure that he will be made President, but he has lost the chance.”
Indo-Asian News Service