SC may order Advani, Joshi’s trial in Babri Masjid demolition conspiracy case


New Delhi, April 6 : The Supreme Court Thursday reserved its order on the CBI’s plea seeking revival of the criminal conspiracy charge against eight senior BJP and VHP leaders in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case as it indicated that it may transfer ongoing trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.

Noting that the matter was pending for last 25 years, the bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said that they would invoke extraordinary powers under the Constitution’s Article 142 to transfer the trial to Lucknow where the eight leaders, including L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, could be tried for conspiracy along with 13 others.

The court also indicated that trial would take place in a time-bound manner on day to day basis and conclude in two years time as it asked all the parties to file their written submissions by Tuesday (April 11).

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had moved the top court against May 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict dropping conspiracy charge against the eight senior Bharatiya Janata Party and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders.

Advani and Joshi, along with Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar (all BJP), Sadhvi Rithambra, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia (VHP) were facing trial for making speeches from the dais at Ramkatha Kunj prior to the razing of the 16th century mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 by Hindu right-wing activists.

The spot was just 200 meters away from the disputed structure.

Kishore and Singhal have since passed away.

Opposing the top court taking recourse to Article 142 for transferring the trial to Lucknow and the revival of the conspiracy charge, both Advani and Joshi, invoking their rights under the Constitution’s Article 14 and Article 21, told the bench that the extraordinary powers could not be invoked to eclipse their fundamental rights.

At this, Justice Nariman observed: “What about Article 21 when it comes to the rights of the victims. Article 21 has many facets” as he referred to an earlier nine judges constitution bench which had held: “You can’t show fundamental rights to the court in exercise of its powers under Article 142.”

As senior counsel K.K. Venugopal who appeared for both Advani and Joshi told the bench that its taking recourse to Article 142 would be an “evasion of law”, the bench said: “Here we are dealing with evasion and eviction of justice.”

Earlier addressing the court, Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the CBI, told the bench that High Court verdict dropping the conspiracy charge against eight BJP leaders must go and they should be tried in Lucknow for the conspiracy charge along with 13 others.

Besides other charges, 13 people including present Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, Satish Pradhan, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Avaidyanath, Paramhans Ramchandra, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Mahamandaleshwar Jagdish Muni Maharaj, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das Chola, Satish Nagar, Moreshwar Save and Baikunth Lal Sharma are also facing trial for conspiracy charges in Lucknow.

Justice Nariman said there was no doubt about it as senior counsel Kapil Sibal told the court that conspiracy in the same transaction (sequence of events leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid) has to be tried together.

Meanwhile, as Sibal, appearing for a petitioner, sought to address the bench, Venugopal objected.

As Sibal suggested that he could assist the court as an amicus curiae, Venugopal wondered how a Congress MP could act as an amicus.

At this, Sibal said: “I shed colours easily.”

Getting back to Venugopal in the post lunch session, Sibal said that Venugopal was today appearing for Advani and Joshi and in the same matter earlier he had appeared for the state.