New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday revived the conspiracy charges against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwarts LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the politically sensitive 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
Besides the three leaders, the accused, against whom the conspiracy charge would now be invoked, are Vinay Katiar, Sadhvi Ritambara, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, who were being tried at Rae Bareilly for making inflammatory speeches before the 16th-century mosque was razed in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya town on December 6, 1992.
The SC order is a huge set back for Advani as report swere doing rounds that the BJP patriarch was the front-runner for the presidential post.
The apex court bench comprising of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman transferred the trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
However, the top court said Kalyan Singh, who is currently the Governor of Rajasthan and during whose tenure as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh the disputed structure was razed, is entitled to immunity under Constitution as long as he remains in gubernatorial position.
"The Court of Sessions will frame charges and move against him as soon as he ceases to be Governor," it said.
The top court directed that additional charges be framed under Section 120-B and the other provisions of the IPC as mentioned in the joint charge-sheet against Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma Prem, and Satish Chandra Nagar.
SC slams CBI
The apex court dubbed the demolition of the medieval era monument as a "crime" which shook the "secular fabric of the Constitution", and observed that the accused were not brought to book largely because of the conduct of the CBI and then Uttar Pradesh government.
It said that the accused persons could not be 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."
Restoring the conspiracy charge and transferring the trial, the judgment said, "What is being done by us today is only to remedy what was expected" to be done by the CBI and the then state government after the February 12, 2001 judgment of the Allahabad High Court.
Issuing a slew of directions, a bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman said "the proceedings viz. Crime No. 198/92 (against Advani and five others) 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."
Besides the three leaders, the accused, against whom the conspiracy charge would now be invoked, are Vinay Katiar, Sadhvi Ritambara, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, who were being tried at Rae Bareilly.
"The court of sessions will frame additional charges under Section 120-B (conspiracy) and the other provisions of the Penal Code mentioned in the joint charge sheet filed by the CBI against Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma and Satish Chandra Nagar," Justice Nariman, writing the judgement for the bench, said.
"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 from the stage at which the trial proceedings, both at Rae Bareilly and at Lucknow, are continuing, until conclusion of the trial.
"There shall be no de novo (fresh) 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," it said.
Move larger SC bench in Babri conspiracy case, Togadia tells Centre
Vishwa Hindu Parishad President Pravin Togadia on Wednesday demanded that the Centre approach Supreme Court's larger bench on the Babri Masjid conspiracy case and a new law to facilitate construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.
"Lakhs had reached Ayodhya, and lakhs do not reach a place on the word of one person. It cannot be a conspiracy," Toghadia told reporters here, demanding that the Centre approach a larger bench of the Supreme Court on the matter.
"The CBI has insulted 100 crore Hindus by going to the Supreme Court," he added.
Congress tries to corner PM Modi
The guilty in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case should be punished, the Congress said as it asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to put to test his morality about which he "talks a lot".
"The prime minister talks a lot and extols about morality. He should put his morality to test after this verdict.
"We leave it to the prime minister's conscience on how he reacts morally to this extensive judgement of the Supreme Court," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters.
The NCP welcomed the Supreme Court's ruling and demanded that BJP leader and Union Minister Uma Bharti be sacked from the Cabinet.
Lalu accuses PM of 'crafting' Advani trial
RJD chief Lalu Prasad today alleged that the Supreme Court order allowing trial of top BJP leaders in the Babri Masjid case was a "well-thought-out politics" of the Prime Minister to remove L K Advani's name from the Presidential race.
"The CBI is under the influence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It stood in the Supreme Court and sought permission to run trial against Advani and others in the Babri Masjid demolition case," Prasad alleged.
"Since Advani's name was in circulation as a probable for the post of President, Modi through well-thought-out politics struck out his (Advani's) name," he alleged.
"It is well known that the CBI does what the government desires," the RJD chief claimed.
Uma Bharti cancels Ayodhya visit
Union Minister Uma Bharti, who had announced a visit to Ayodhya to offer prayers to Ram Lala, cancelled her programme on Wednesday after the Supreme Court revived the conspiracy charge against her in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
"The issue of Ram temple at Ayodhya is not political but a matter of conviction for me. If I would have gone there, this would have turned into a political affair. So I am cancelling my visit," Uma Bharti said in a statement.
The apex court verdict came on a CBI plea challenging May 2010 Allahabad High Court order upholding the dropping of conspiracy charge against Advani and others.