Babri Masjid case: All accused, including Advani, acquitted; court says demolition was not planned

Babri masjid
Babri masjid. File photo

Lucknow: A Special Court here has acquitted all the 32 accused, including BJP veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.

The Babri mosque demolition was not planned, Special CBI judge S K Yadav said in his verdict on Wednesday.

The court said there was no conclusive proof against the accused.

Unlawful elements were involved in the demolition of the Babri mosque, the court said, adding that the leaders tried to stop them.

The judge said that Ashok Singhal and other Sangh Parivar leaders wanted to save the structure as Ram Lalla statues were inside.

The case relates to the razing of the disputed structure in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

The court further said the CBI has failed to substantiate the charges levelled against the 32 accused persons. The court also said that the video recordings submitted to the court were 'tampered with'.

He said that the authenticity of audio, video provided by CBI could not be proven and the audio of the speeches were not clear.

The court also said that those who climbed on the dome, were anti-social elements.

The accused include former deputy prime minister Advani, former Union ministers Joshi and Uma Bharti, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, besides Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Rithambara.

Babri Masjid case: All accused, including Advani, acquitted; court says demolition was not planned
L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti in Raebareli. File photo

Kalyan Singh, during whose tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh the disputed structure was demolished, was put on trial in September last year after his tenure as governor (of Rajasthan) came to an end. Champat Rai, the general secretary of the trust in charge of constructing the Ram temple, is also among those accused.

Twenty six of the 32 accused were present in the court when the judge read out the 2,000-page verdict. L K Advani, Uma Barti and Murli Manohar Joshi, Nritya Gopal Das, Kalyan Singh & Satish Pradhan register court presence through video conferencing.

Former BJP MP Vinay Katiyar and Hindu leader Sadhvi Rithambhara, who were among the accused present in court, said: "Sab Ramji ki kripa hai".

As soon as the court announced the acquittal of the accused, jubilation broke out outside the court, in Ayodhya and Lucknow where supporters of the leaders were present to celebrate the occasion.

The court observed that leaders who were present on the dais repeatedly tried to persuade the 'kar sewaks' against taking any action on that day.

The 26 accused persons who were present in court on Wednesday, said that they had always maintained that the demotion was a conspiracy by the then Congress government.

Main litigant welcomes verdict

Iqbal Ansari, the main litigant in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute, welcomed a special CBI court's decision acquitting all the accused in the mosque demolition case on Wednesday and appealed to all Muslims to honour it.

"It is good that all have been acquitted. Whatever had to happen happened on November 9 last year. This case should also have ended the same day.

"This is the CBI's case and the court has given its ruling today. I appeal to Muslims not to take any further action in this. Just as they honoured the November 9 decision, this verdict too needs to be accepted similarly," he said.

On November 9 last year, the Supreme Court ordered the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya to be handed over to a trust for the construction of a Ram temple.

Ansari said he does not want any dispute between Hindus and Muslims in the country. "Only those who want to break the country try to continue with disputes," he added.

There are no differences between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in Ayodhya and the same atmosphere needs to prevail in the entire country, he said.

The case

Babri Masjid case: All accused, including Advani, acquitted; court says demolition was not planned
In this file photo, dated Nov. 1990, is seen Babri mosque in Ayodhya. PTI

The Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 by "kar sevaks" who claimed that the mosque in Ayodhya was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple.

With the Supreme Court setting August 31 as the deadline and later extending it by a month for the CBI court to give its verdict, the trial court conducted day-to-day hearing to complete the task in time.

The central agency produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 17 have died during the course of trial.

The trial under the serious criminal conspiracy charges commenced against them after having been dropped by the trial court in 2001. The verdict was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, but the apex court ordered restoration of the conspiracy charge against them on April 19, 2017.

The charge of conspiracy was in addition to the existing charges against them for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion for which they are already facing trial.

The accused were also facing charges of having made assertions "prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship".

The other charges against them include indulging in "deliberate and malicious" acts intended to outrage religious feelings, uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.

The CBI argued that the accused conspired and instigated 'kar sevaks' to demolish the 16th century mosque.

Babri Masjid case: All accused, including Advani, acquitted; court says demolition was not planned
BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj arrives at a special CBI court during pronouncement of its judgement in the 1992 Babri mosque demolition accused case, in Lucknow, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. PTI

But the accused pleaded innocence maintaining that there is no evidence to prove their guilt and claimed they were implicated by the then Congress government at the Centre as a political vendetta.

In a significant judgment last year, the Supreme Court allotted the disputed site in Ayodhya for construction of a Ram temple, while calling the demolition of the mosque a violation of the rule of law.

An alternative five-acre site was marked in the city for building a mosque.

Before the 2017 verdict of the apex court, two sets of cases were being heard in Lucknow and Raebareli.

The trial of the first case involving unnamed 'kar sevaks' was going on in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relating to the eight VVIPs, including Advani, Joshi, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Ashok Singhal, Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Giriraj Kishore and Sadhvi Ritambhara, were going on in a Raebareli court.

The apex court, had while restoring the charge of criminal conspiracy, directed clubbing of two cases relating to the demolition and had also ordered that the trial be concluded in two years.

Security stepped up

Babri Masjid case: All accused, including Advani, acquitted; court says demolition was not planned
Police stand guard outside a special CBI court during pronouncement of its judgement of those accused in 1992 Babri mosque demolition case, in Lucknow, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. PTI

A multi-layered security apparatus was put in place in the vicinity of the Old High Court building in Lucknow. Delhi Police also keeping a strict vigil in the national capital in view of the judgement.

Wooden barricades were erected near most of the cross sections in the vicinity of the court building, and movement of buses from the Kaisarbagh bus stand diverted.

Vehicular movement on the roads adjoining to the court building was also minimised.

Media persons were not allowed to enter the court building. Most of the shops in the vicinity of the courts remained closed in view of the pronouncement of the verdict.

Lucknow's Commissioner of Police Sujeet Pandey also took stock of security arrangements.

Policemen were also seen using the public address system to urge the media persons to stay behind the barricades.

(With inputs from PTI)

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