SC restores criminal conspiracy charge against Advani, Joshi, Bharti in Babri case
New Delhi, April 19, 2017
The Supreme Court today ordered that senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, along with several others, be prosecuted for criminal conspiracy in the case related to the December 6, 1992 demolition of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
The order, on an appeal by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has come at a time when the names of Mr. Advani, former Deputy Prime Minister, and Mr. Joshi, former Union Minister, were being discussed in political circles as possible BJP candidates in the Presidential election later this year, though the party has denied there was any such proposal.
Ms. Bharti is Union Minister for Water Resources in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Cabinet and today's order has given rise to calls from the Opposition for her resignation, which the BJP rejected, saying that she had not been indicted in the matter.
The two-judge bench, comprising Mr. Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Mr. Justice R. F. Nariman, said the proceedings in Crime No. 198/92, RC.1(S)/92/SICIV/ND in the Court of the Special Judicial Magistrate at Rae Bareilly would stand transferred to the Court of Additional Sessions Judge (Ayodhya Matters) at Lucknow.
The order said the Court of Sessions will frame an additional charge under Section 120-B against Mr. L.K. Advani, Mr. Vinay Katiar, Ms. Uma Bharati, Ms. Sadhvi Ritambara, Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi and Mr. Vishnu Hari Dalmia. The Court of Sessions will frame additional charges under Section 120-B and the other provisions of the Penal Code mentioned in the joint charge sheet filed by the CBI against Mr. Champat Rai Bansal, Mr. Satish Pradhan, Mr. Dharam Das, Mr. Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mr. Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Mr. Ram Bilas Vadanti, Mr. Vaikunth Lal Sharma @ Prem, and Dr. Satish Chandra Nagar.
The court said Mr. Kalyan Singh, being the Governor of Rajasthan, was entitled to immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution as long as he remained Governor of Rajasthan. The Court of Sessions will frame charges and move against him as soon as he ceases to be Governor, it said.
The order said that the Court of Sessions would, 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 from the stage at which the trial proceedings, both at Rae Bareilly and at Lucknow, are continuing, until conclusion of the trial.
The court noted that there was a judgementof the High Court dated 8th December, 2011, in which the matter proceeding at Rae Bareilly was to be proceeded with on a day-to-day basis until it is concluded. The judges said they had been told that this had only been followed in the breach as less than a hundred witnesses had yet been examined. Any number of adjournments had been taken by the CBI as well as the other persons. They said that one other disturbing feature is the fact that the Special Judge designated by the notification to carry on the trial at Rae Bareilly had been transferred a number of times, as a result of which the matter could not be taken up on the dates fixed.
Accordingly, the judges ordered that there shall be no de novo trial. "There shall be no de novo trial. There shall be no transfer of the Judge conducting the trial until the entire trial concludes. The case shall not be adjourned on any ground except when the Sessions Court finds it impossible to carry on the trial for that particular date. In such an event, on grant of adjournment to the next day or a closely proximate date, reasons for the same shall be recorded in writing," they said.
The order said 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 is not adjourned. It said the Sessions Court will complete the trial and deliver the judgment within a period of two years from the date of receipt of today's judgment.
"We make it clear that liberty is given to any of the parties before the Sessions Court to approach us in the event of these directions not being carried out, both in letter and in spirit," the judges said, disposing of the appeal.