The Supreme Court on Friday extended the deadline for the trial court to pronounce its judgement in the Babri Masjid demolition case till August 31, Live Law reported. In July, the top court had said that the trial must be completed within nine months, that is, by April 30.

A bench comprising Justices RF Nariman and Surya Kant said on Friday that Shri Yadav, the Central Bureau of Investigation trial court judge, should ensure that the new deadline is not breached. The judge had on May 6 written to the Supreme Court seeking extension of time, as even recording of evidence had not yet been completed.

The Supreme Court said that given the countrywide lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the trial court judge should use videoconferencing to complete the proceedings. “It is up to Shri Yadav to control the proceedings in accordance with law so that inordinate delay that is beyond the time frame that we now give, is no longer breached,” the court said in its order.

The Babri Masjid, located in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, was demolished by Hindutva extremists on December 6, 1992, because it allegedly stood on land that was the birthplace of deity Ram. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi have been accused of criminal conspiracy in the case.

On April 19, 2017, the top court had ordered day-to-day trial in the case, and said it should be concluded within two years. The court had also restored criminal conspiracy charges filed against Advani and Joshi along with Vinay Katiar, Sadhvi Ritambara and Vishnu Hari Dalmia. It restored charges against several other Hindutva leaders who had earlier been acquitted in the case.

Three other high-profile accused – Giriraj Kishore, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia – died during trial and the proceedings against them were abated.

In the related Ayodhya case, the Supreme Court had on November 9 last year ruled that land at the disputed site be allotted to a trust that will oversee the construction of a Ram temple there. The bench also ruled that a separate five-acre plot be allotted in Ayodhya to Muslims for the construction of a mosque.