A special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 accused in the nearly three-decades-old criminal case related to the Babri Masjid demolition. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh were among those accused of criminal conspiracy and other charges.
The court said that the demolition was not pre-planned and that the people who demolished the mosque were “anti-national elements”. The accused leaders were, in fact, trying to control the crowds, the judgement added. “Those who climbed on the dome, they are the anti-social elements,” the court observed, according to Live Law.
Special CBI Judge SK Yadav, who has been hearing only this case since 2017, said the evidence provided by the CBI was not strong enough. He said it was not possible to prove the authenticity of audio and the video provided by the CBI. The audio was not clear, he added.
“The chargesheet has no evidence on the basis of which it can be established that the named accused had incited any riot or were part of it,” the judge said.
The special court judge said that on the contrary, evidence suggested that volunteers from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad “were taking care of arrangements” on December 6, when the mosque was demolished, according to NDTV.
“Seating arrangements for women, the elderly, the media and parking was being handled by them,” Yadav added. “This points to the fact that there was no scheme of the named accused to bring down the disputed structure on December 6, 1992.”
‘Group of Karsevaks did it’
The CBI court said the group that “created ruckus” at the site of the mosque was from a section of kar sewaks. “But they were definitely hooligans because if they were actual believers of Lord Ram they would have paid heed to Ashok Singhal’s statement that the disputed structure is also a temple and you have to protect it,” the judge added.
The judge also said that evidence related to Advani, Joshi, Sadhvi Rithambara, Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Acharya Dharmendra Dev made it clear they were on stage at the time of the incident.
“That the named accused got together in common cause with anti-social Kar Sewaks to bring down the disputed structure, there is no evidence in the chargesheet to prove this. The leaders seated on stage and those near the Ram chabutara – Ashok Singhal, Vijaya Raje Scindia – did not suspect that a section of the Kar Sewaks will get agitated and climb the disputed structure.”— NDTV
Besides this, the court said that none of the witnesses had explicitly named the accused and stated they were involved in razing the mosque. The court added that on the day of the incident, lakhs of kar sewaks were present “and heavy dust was blowing”, indicating that it was therefore, not possible to give a clear account as to what happened on that day.
“In such circumstances, it could not be concluded with utmost accuracy that the accused persons or few of them would have signalled the kar sewaks to demolish the structure and it was highly improbable that eye-witnesses would have seen such things happening at the disputed site.”— Live Law
During the hearing, the court observed that the newspaper and magazine clippings produced by the CBI came under the purview of hearsay evidence and therefore, cannot be relied upon unless supported by other “robust pieces of evidence”.
Similarly, the judge also discarded the photographs videotapes, cassettes produced by the CBI.
“Which accused person gave what speech on December 6, 1992, the prosecution has not managed to prove this with evidence. The video cassettes that have been presented, their related witnesses have themselves accepted these are edited and tampered.
To prove an offence under Section 153 A and 153 A of IPC (Indian Penal Code), the prosecution has to prove that which accused gave what specific speech that led to enmity between two groups and led to a breakdown in communal harmony. If the accused have merely given a inciting speech only on that basis the person cannot be pronounced guilty.”— NDTV
On the photographs from the site, the court was of the view that the negatives of such photographs were not produced before it and the photos did not contain the signature, or watermark of the photographer.
Twenty-six of 32 accused appeared in court. Advani, who is 92 years old, and 86-year-old Joshi were exempted due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bharti has contracted Covid-19 and is under treatment, while Singh is recovering from the infection. Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas chief Nritya Gopal Das and Shiv Sena leader Satish Pradhan also skipped the hearing. However, all of them appeared via video-conferencing.
Several BJP leaders welcomed the judgement and praised the judiciary. Advani said the acquittal vindicated his and his party’s commitment towards the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Joshi, meanwhile, referred to the verdict as a “historic decision” and said it “proves that no conspiracy was hatched for December 6 incident in Ayodhya”.
The Babri Masjid, located in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, was demolished by Hindutva extremists on December 6, 1992, because they believed that it stood on land that was the birthplace of deity Ram. The incident had triggered communal riots across the country. The demolition also led to bomb blasts in several parts of Mumbai, allegedly masterminded by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, in 1993. The blasts killed over 300 people.
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 Katiyar, Sadhvi Ritambhara 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.
Arguments of the defence and prosecution concluded on September 1, after which the special judge began writing the verdict. The CBI had produced almost 351 witnesses and 600 documents before the court. Last month, the Supreme Court had set September 30 as the deadline to complete the trial and deliver a verdict.
In November 2019, while passing its judgement on the related Ayodhya title dispute, the Supreme Court had said that the 1992 “destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure” was an “egregious violation of the rule of law”.
In its judgement, a bench led by then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had said that “Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago”. The court said that on December 6, 1992, the mosque was brought down in breach of the assurance given to it that the structure would not be affected. It added that the Muslims had not abandoned the mosque when it was destroyed.
Invoking Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, the top court had said it must ensure that “a wrong committed must be remedied”.
“Justice would not prevail if the court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law...Tolerance and mutual coexistence nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people.— Supreme Court in 2019 judgement on Babri Masjid title dispute
In the Babri Masjid title dispute, the Supreme Court had ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya would be handed over to a government-run trust for the construction of a Ram temple. The top court had also said that the demolition of Babri Masjid was illegal and directed the government to acquire an alternative plot of land to build a mosque. The temple’s construction has begun.