The Supreme Court today dealt a crushing blow to senior BJP leaders Murali Manohar Joshi, LK Advani, Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh against whom a criminal conspiracy charge will be tried at the Lucknow Special Court in the Babri Masjid Demolition case. Having said that, there is no legal compulsion for two out of these four - Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti - to step down.
Two leaders Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh hold public offices. Bharti is the cabinet minister for Water Resources while Kalyan Singh is the Governor of Rajasthan. Kalyan Singh enjoys Constitutional immunity under Article 361. He can only be tried if he resigns or demits his office.
Legally speaking, there is no compulsion in the law for Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti to step down. Under the Representation of People's Act, 1951, which has gone through various amendments, a person can be barred from contesting elections or holding the public office of a legislator upon conviction for an offence for more than two years. They cannot be barred at the stage of filing of the chargesheet. However, they shall be barred upon the first conviction from the trial court.
BJP LEADERS MUST QUIT IN KEEPING WITH MORALITY
It's not only in keeping with morality and propriety that they must step down. One must also understand the political overtones of the charge of 'political conspiracy'. So far, the top political brass has held the view that on the day of demolition, they tried to stop the mob from demolishing the Babri Masjid. At the Raebareily court, they are only being tried for making inflammatory speeches. But Advani and others have distanced themselves in political discourse from the actual demolition.
The charge of political conspiracy implies that the act of demolition was pre-meditated. It also raises questions on the moral responsibility of the riots that followed.
The fact that the trial has to conclude in two years is a welcome step. But the long and tedious legal battle is far from over.
Uma Bharti remains defiant, says ready to face trial
ANI adds: Lashing out at the Supreme Court's decision to reinstate criminal conspiracy charges against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid demolition case, the Union Water Resources Minister on Wednesday remained defiant, saying she is ready to face the trial.
"For Ayodhya, for Ganga, for the tricolour, I'm ready to bear any punishment. Why should I regret it? There was no conspiracy, everything was open in front. There was nothing like this in contemplation," Bharti said.
Bharti turned the allegations against the Congress Party on the emergency when asked if she will resign on the Opposition's demand.
"I will not react on Congress' allegations and demands that I resign. Who are they to say anything? They imposed the emergency, they forcefully sterilised Muslims," she added.
Bharti further said that Ram Mandir needs to be built.
"The (Babri Masjid) case is yet to conclude. I have not yet been pronounced guilty. This country belongs to the cow, Ganga, Ram and the tricolour. I will defend them at any cost," she added.
The apex court has directed the sessions judge in Lucknow to conduct the trial in the Babri demolition case on a daily basis and that the judge will not be transferred. It also ruled out a fresh trial in the case.
The top court has also ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to ensure that witnesses are produced in court everyday so that there is no delay in the Babri demolition case trial. The trial will have to be completed in two years.
However, the apex court has clarified that Kalyan Singh, being Governor of Rajasthan, will not be tried due to constitutional immunity unless he ceases to be in that post. In effect, his trial will begin after his term as Governor ends.
Singh was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the demolition took place.
Others who will face criminal conspiracy charges are Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Ritambara, Satish Pradhan, Champat Rai Bansal. The late Giriraj Kishore is also among the names in the original chargesheet.
There were two sets of cases relating to the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6, 1992.
The first involved unnamed 'karsevaks' or volunteers, the trial of which is taking place in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relate to the VVIPs in a Rae Bareli court.
With today's order, both these cases are merged and will be heard in Lucknow.
The order comes after the CBI had petitioned the apex court saying 14 people, including BJP leaders, who had been acquitted of the charges under criminal conspiracy, should be tried in the Lucknow Court.