The Apex Court has extended by a month the deadline for completion of trial in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case involving 32 accused, including BJP veterans L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti. The Court asked the CBI Special Court to deliver the verdict by Sept 30.
The Supreme Court, which had earlier fixed Aug 31 as the deadline for completion of proceedings including pronouncement of the verdict, took note of the report filed by special judge S K Yadav in the high-profile case.
A bench of Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha & Indira Banerjee said, “Having read the report of Surendra Kumar Yadav, learned special judge, & considering that the proceedings are at the fag end, we grant one month’s time, i.e., till September 30, 2020, to complete the proceedings including the delivery of judgment.”
The order was passed on Aug 19 & was uploaded on the Supreme Court website recently.
On May 8, the SC had extended by 3 months the time for completion of trial in the case & said that judgement should be delivered by Aug 31.
The special CBI Court at Lucknow has completed the recording of statements of the 32 accused under section 313 of CrPC in the case.
The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992, by ‘kar sevaks’ who claimed that an ancient Ram temple stood at the same site.
Former deputy Prime Minister LK Advani & BJP veteran MM Joshi, who were among those leading the Ram temple movement at that time, had deposed before the court through video conferencing.
The court has also recorded statements of BJP stalwarts like Kalyan Singh & Uma Bharti, both of whom appeared in person.
Advani’s statement was recorded barely days before the groundbreaking event on August 5 for a Ram temple at Ayodhya.
Last year, a five-judge Constitution bench of the SC had ruled that the 2.77-acre land claimed by both Hindus & Muslims would be handed over to a trust for the building of a temple.
The Court had also ordered the allocation of a 5-acre land at another site in Ayodhya for building a mosque.
The SC had in May asked special judge S K Yadav to control the proceedings in accordance with law so that the time-frame is no longer breached.
It had indicated to the special judge to avail the facilities of video conferencing to complete recording of evidence & hearing of applications that are filed during the course of trial proceedings.
The SC order was passed after the special judge had written a letter seeking an extension of time granted to him for completing the trial in the politically sensitive case.
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On July 19, last year the SC had asked the special judge to deliver the verdict within 9 months, which was to end this April.
It had also extended the tenure of the special judge at Lucknow till the completion of the trial & the delivery of the verdict in the case.
Besides Advani, Joshi & Uma Bharti, the accused against whom conspiracy charge was invoked in the case by the SC on April 19, 2017, include former Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh, BJP MP Vinay Katiar & Sadhvi Rithambara.
Three other high-profile accused – Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal & Vishnu Hari Dalmia – died during trial & the proceedings against them have been abated.
Kalyan Singh, during whose tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh the disputed structure was razed, was put on trial in September last year after his tenure as governor came to an end.
Exercising its plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the SC had directed the UP Govt to pass appropriate orders in consultation with the High Court of Allahabad to extend the tenure of the special Judge, who was set to retire on Sept 30, 2019r.
On April 19, 2017, the SC had ordered a day-to-day trial in the high profile case & directed the special judge to conclude it in two years.
While dubbing the demolition of the disputed structure as a “crime” which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution”, it had allowed the CBI’s plea on restoration of the criminal conspiracy charge against the VVIP accused.
The Court had come down heavily on the CBI for the delay of over 25 years in the trial.
Issuing a slew of directions, it had said, “The proceedings (against Advani & others) in the court of the special judicial magistrate at Raebareli will stand transferred to the court of additional sessions judge (Ayodhya Matters) at Lucknow.”
The Supreme Court, “The court of sessions will frame additional charges under Section 120-B (conspiracy) & 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 & Satish Chandra Nagar”.
The Court had termed the Allahabad HC’s Feb 12, 2001 verdict of dropping conspiracy charges against Advani & others as “erroneous”.
Before the 2017 verdict of the Supreme Court, there were 2 sets of cases relating to the demolition of the disputed structure on Dec 6, 1992, going on at Lucknow & Raebareli.
The trial of the first case involving unnamed ‘Karsevaks’ was going on in a Lucknow Court, while the second set of cases relating to the eight VVIPs were going on in a Raebareli court.