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India: All 32 accused in Babri Mosque demolition case acquitted

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, September 30:

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh state on Wednesday acquitted all 32 accused in the Babri Mosque demolition case almost 28 years after a mob razed the 16th century structure in Ayodhya.

The accused faced charges like criminal conspiracy, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, and unlawful assembly.

The demolition triggered some of the deadliest riots since the partition riots in 1947 that left about 2,000 dead. The acquitted included veteran Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Lal Krishna Advani (92), and Murli Manohar Joshi (86).

CBI Judge Surendra Kumar Yadav ordered the acquittal by citing a lack of evidence. He said the probe agency could not prove the authenticity of the audio and video evidence submitted. He said the demolition was not pre-planned and the accused tried to stop “anti-social” elements who razed the mosque.

Former Union minister Uma Bharti, and Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister at the time of the demolition, are among other accused acquitted in the case. They have tested positive for Covid-19 and are hospitalised, and could not attend the court proceedings on Wednesday. Singh’s government was dismissed over the demolition.

Sadhvi Rithambhara, Lallu Singh, Pawan Pandey, Vinay Katiyar, and Champat Rai were among the accused present in the CBI court.

The verdict came months after the Supreme Court in November 2019 ruled in favour of building a temple at the 2.77-acre site in Ayodhya, where the mosque once stood. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attended a ceremony to mark the beginning of the temple construction in August.

Security was heightened on the court premises. No one except the defence, CBI lawyers, and the accused were allowed inside the courtroom. Entry was permitted through only one gate and barricades were put on nearby roads to restrict traffic.

Supporters of the accused were stopped at the barricades as they started arriving at the court. Journalists were denied access to the court building, and most of the shops in the vicinity remained closed.

The CBI took over the demolition case a week after the mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992. Two simultaneous criminal trials in Lucknow and Rae Bareli were conducted until the Supreme Court shifted all cases to Lucknow in 2017. The top court in July last year extended the timeframe for completing the criminal trial by six months and also set a deadline of nine months for the final order.

The nine-month deadline expired on April 19. The Supreme Court on May 8 set the new deadline of August 31 for the judgment. In August, it again extended the deadline till September 30.

CBI produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence during the course of the trial and the special court framed charges against 49 accused. Seventeen of the accused died during the course of the trial.

Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani welcomed the judgement by the special CBI court which acquitted him and 31 other accused in the Babri mosque demolition case.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the judgement. The judgement vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi movement,” Advani said after the verdict by the court in Lucknow.

He, along with another accused Murli Manohar Joshi, participated in the proceedings through video conferencing. “It’s a historic decision by the court. This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the December 6 incident in Ayodhya. Our programme and rallies were not part of any conspiracy. We are happy, everyone should now be excited about Ram Mandir’s construction,” said Joshi.

The CBI, which went into the case, produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 16 had died during the course of the trial. Over two dozen of 32 accused were present

The verdict given by the special CBI court in the Babri demolition case has been hailed by many political leaders and Union ministers. Defence minister Rajnath Singh took the lead in congratulating the 32 who were acquitted.

However, the opposition Congress Party said the verdict runs counter to the 2019 Supreme Court judgment as also the “Constitutional spirit”. The party asked the Central and Uttar Pradesh governments to file an appeal against the decision of the special court.

“Every Indian, who has innate faith in the Constitution as also in the spirit of communal amity and brotherhood, expects and urges the Central and State Governments to file an appeal against the decision of the Special Court founded in error and follow the letter of the law and the Constitution, without any partiality and pre-meditated prejudice. This is the true calling of rule of law and our Constitution,” he added.



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