A special CBI court in Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and 30 others in the Babri Masjid demolition case, almost 28 years after the December 6, 1992 incident, for lack of credible evidence. The court rejected the charges of criminal conspiracy levelled by the CBI against the accused, observing that the charge sheet did not have any evidence to show that they “got together in common intent” with a group of “hooligan kar sevaks” to bring down the mosque. It observed that a group of “arajak” (hooligan) kar sevaks from the main crowd “suddenly got agitated” and indulged in violence even as senior VHP leader Ashok Singhal appealed to them to retreat that fateful day.
“All evidence in the charge sheet was examined. The crime alleged against the accused could not be proven,” said the court. The court said in the 2,300-page verdict that evidence submitted by the CBI in the form of newspaper clippings, video cassettes, tapes, printed material, speeches, and witness testimonies made it “clear that there was no moment when the accused persons gathered in a room to plan the scheme to demolish the structure.”
“None of the witnesses have clearly named any of the accused to say they were demolishing the disputed structure,” Special Judge S.K. Yadav said. While 351 prosecution witnesses, including many journalists, were examined in the case, none of the accused produced a witness in their defence. Mr. Kalyan Singh was the only accused to submit documentary evidence in his defence. Mr. Yadav observed that it was “not credible” of some witnesses to point to some accused and say that they were exhorting kar sevaks to demolish the mosque, as there was a lot of dust inside the complex that was filled with lakhs of kar sevaks.
The disputed structure was about 200-300 metres away from the Katha Kunj dais but some witnesses had said it was 800 metres away, he said. The court found contradictions in the statements of the eye witnesses. Twenty-six out of the 32 accused — most of them linked to the Sangh Parivar — were present in court. Those who could not appear in person were Mr. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Mr. Kalyan Singh, Nritya Gopal Das and Satish Pradhan.
Babri case verdict expected, not surprised: NCP
The NCP on Wednesday said it was not surprised over the special court’s verdict acquitting all accused in the Babri masjid demolition case. The CBI court in Lucknow has acquitted all the 32 accused, including BJP veterans L.K. Advani and MM Joshi, for want of conclusive proof against them.
“The court has given verdict in the case today. It was expected, and hence, we are not surprised,” Maharashtra minister and NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik said in a video message. The minister said though the accused were acquitted for want of evidence, probe agencies had filed the case based on evidences only.
“Rath Yatra was taken out before December 6 (1992). The media of the country was present at the (mosque) site and documented the events. There were photos taken and videos captured. There are contents available on YouTube. But the court has given its verdict and we respect it,” Mr. Malik said. The NCP leader said it was unlikely that the BJP-led Uttar Pradesh government will approach a higher court against the special CBI court’s judgement as those who were acquitted include leaders of the saffron party.
The court says, the accused did not have a plan
Judge Mr. Yadav said the CBI failed to prove “which accused gave what speech” that day. “The video cassettes that have been presented, their related witnesses have themselves accepted that these are edited and tampered with,” he said. The judge said evidence suggested that RSS and VHP volunteers were taking care of arrangements, including seating for women, elderly and media, and regularly making announcements. “This indicates that there was no scheme of the named accused to bring down the disputed structure on December 6, 1992,” the court said.
The court also said that in the case of Mr. Advani, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Sadhvi Ritambara, Ms. Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Acharya Dharmendra Dev, it was clear that the recordings of slogans raised by a specific accused were not co-related with voice samples of that specific accused and presented in court. The special court said that as part of the evidence submitted by the CBI, the newspaper clippings qualified as hearsay evidence and even rejected the video cassettes as edited and noted that negatives of none of the photographs had been submitted.
The judge said the interviews of the accused and statements published in newspapers and submitted by the CBI from November 1990 to May 1993 could not be considered as evidence. The court said that it had also been established that on December 6, 1992 around 12 p.m. everything was normal, but when Singhal announced again how the kar seva should proceed, a “section of kar sevaks” became agitated and started pelting the mosque with stones. Some broke the barricades and climbed the structure, following which Singhal asked the group of karsevaks to return, but they instead started attacking him, noted the court.
“ … 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’,” said the court. CBI lawyers said it was up to the CBI headquarters to decide on filing an appeal. “We can only provide an opinion, if asked,” said a CBI lawyer part of the case. Any of the aggrieved parties in the case — there were 49 FIRs filed in this case (two by policemen and 47 by journalists) — could also go for appeal, said the lawyer.
This article has been written by Oorvi Agarwal, 4th year, BA-LLB student of Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.