Delivering a major blow to senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi, the Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to revive the conspiracy charges levelled against them in 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
The apex court ordered hearing of the joint trial of two separate cases against Advani, Joshi, Bharti and unknown 'karsevaks' on a day to day basis in the case, which is to be completed within two years by the Lucknow High Court. The Supreme Court order also added that the trial judge of the case cannot be transferred till the case is closed.
Kalyan Singh, the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has also been charged although as the Governor of Rajasthan, he would enjoy Constitutional immunity till he holds the post.
On 6 April, before reserving the order, the top court bench consisting of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman 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 Raebareli to Lucknow so that eight leaders, including Advani and Joshi, could be tried for conspiracy along with 13 others.
However, both Advani and Joshi had opposed the top court taking recourse to Article 142 for transferring the trial to Lucknow and the revival of the conspiracy charge.
The latest development comes at a time when the BJP enjoys a three-fourth majority in Uttar Pradesh, after winning 324 seats in the recently concluded elections.
Advani, Joshi and Bharti 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 6 December, 1992 by Hindu right-wing activists.
The trio were initially absolved by the Allahabad High Court on charges of conspiracy on 20 May 2010. However, the CBI appealed to the Supreme Court on 18 February 2011 against the Allahabad High Court verdict. In a relief to CBI, the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad High Court's order in May 2011.
The 2010 verdict was in response to the CBI petition challenging the May 2001 order of a special court which dropped the criminal conspiracy charge against 13 leaders of the BJP and VHP, including the trio. In 2001, Advani was the Union home minister, while Joshi was the Union HRD minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The CBI had gone into a huddle after the 2001 verdict. Three years later, in 2004, the investigation agency challenged the order before the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court.
Two FIRs were filed against the trio in immediately after the mosque was razed to the ground on 6 December 1992. While one was on charges of criminal conspiracy, other was on disturbing communal harmony in the area.
The CBI later filed a chargesheet against Advani, the then Leader of Opposition and other BJP and VHP leaders for criminal conspiracy.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2017 12:32:57 IST