On Wednesday morning, a Supreme Court ruling on the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case sent newsrooms into a tizzy.
The apex court announced that BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti will face trial for criminal conspiracy. They had earlier been charged with making inflammatory speeches which motivated lakhs of right-wing volunteers or karsevaks to raze the mosque to the ground. The demolition sparked nationwide riots that claimed the lives of over 2,000 people.
The court restored these charges against them, which had been dropped by a special CBI court in 2001.
While for 25 years the case has built a complex timeline, here are key highlights of Wednesday’s judgement, which is a turning point in the history of the case.
Key Highlights of Supreme Court Order
- “The proceedings in the Court of the Special Judicial Magistrate at Rae Bareilly will stand transferred to the Court of Additional Sessions Judge (Ayodhya Matters) at Lucknow.”
- “Mr Kalyan Singh, being the Governor of Rajasthan, is entitled to immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution as long as he remains Governor. The Court of Sessions will frame charges and move against him as soon as he ceases to be Governor.”
- “The Court of Sessions will, after transfer of the proceedings from Rae Bareilly to Lucknow and framing of additional charges, within four weeks, take up all the matters on a day-to-day basis... until conclusion of the trial… There shall be no transfer of the judge conducting the trial until the entire trial concludes.”
- “The CBI shall ensure that on every date fixed for evidence, some prosecution witnesses must remain present, so that for want of witnesses the matter not be adjourned.”
- “The Sessions Court will complete the trial and deliver the judgement within a period of 2 years from the date of receipt of this judgement.”
Key Observations Before the Final Verdict
The Supreme Court bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and R Nariman, in its detailed 50-page verdict, made several observations.
In a judgement dated 12 February 2001, the Allahabad High Court had decreed that the transferring of Crime No 198 from Rae Bareilly to Lucknow was “defective”. The government had reportedly issued the judgement in 1993 without agreement of the High Court, which is mandatory.
Slamming the CBI for not following the HC’s orders, the Supreme Court said:
It is clear from a reading of the judgement dated 12 February 2001 that the High Court expected that the defect noticed in the notification would be cured... Instead the course taken by the CBI has caused great confusion...
The Court added:
The filing of supplementary charge sheet against 8 accused persons which is going on separately in Rae Bareilly and the dropping altogether of charges against the 13 accused persons has completely derailed the joint trial envisaged...
Chiding the CBI and the state government for not “curing technical defects”, the apex court said:
The accused persons have not been brought to book largely because of the conduct of the CBI in not pursuing the prosecution of the aforesaid alleged offenders in a joint trial, and because of technical defects which were easily curable, but which were not cured by the State Government.
Criticising the Allahabad High Court for not following on its own order, the apex court added:
What is being done by us today is only to remedy what was expected by the Allahabad High Court to have been done shortly after its judgement dated 12 February 2001.
The top court also observed that the judge at Rae Bareilly was repeatedly transferred. It wrote:
One other disturbing feature is the fact that the Special Judge designated by the notification to carry on the trial at Rae Bareilly has been transferred a number of times, as a result of which the matter could not be taken up on the dates fixed.
(With inputs from Bar & Bench.)