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Babri Masjid demolition: a crime without criminal
By Our Correspondent, Lucknow

The Babri Masjid demolition case took a new and curious turn on May 4 when Special CBI Judge (Ayodhya episode) Shri kant Shukla "dropped" the criminal proceedings against 21 accused, including three Union Ministers- Home Minister Lal Krishsna Advani, Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and Sports Minister Uma Bharti.

With this order, the trial court in just one stroke had granted much-sought reprieve to all the top leaders of the Hindutava forces i.e Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena and the ruling BJP. Be it Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, expelled BJP stalwart and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh or Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore of the VHP in addition to the top BJP leadership, the trial is now in abeyance and the government post is safe. Bahujan Samaj Party vice-president and two-time Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati immediately after accused the State Government that it was shielding the people responsible for the crime of demolition of ancient mosque in the flagrant violation of the court orders.

In nutshell, people by and large feel the demolition of ancient Babri Masjid had turned a heinous crime without criminals. "Had the government been slight serious, it would not had slept over the High Court order to rectify the Notification in order to restore the criminal proceedings against the top BJP/VHP/SS/Bajrang Dal leadership", she said.

The trial court, where matter is pending for trial since October 1997 gave a new twist to the case when it interpreted the matter which was not argued before it at all. The prosecuting agency of the CBI had a argument before it that even if the High Court had found flaw in the issuance of second Notification and had quashed the proceedings against the top eight leaders of the BJP/VHP, the case stand in the trial court because the charge-sheet in the case no 197 and 198/1992 was joint. The defence lawyers however demanded dropping of the cases against the eight in the effect of the order of the Justice Jagdish Bhalla of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

The trial court when liberal and interpreted the High Court order that not only the nine accused another 13 (a total of 21) comes under its ambit and hence there would be no trial against them till the State Government rectify the Notification, as suggested by the High Court.

Many Muslims were not finding themselves convinced in the alteration of the much-touted Shah Bano verdict of the Supreme Court but now they comes around justifying it, saying given the various interpretation taken by the court in different Muslims matters, what would have been the result if precedent had been allowed if court had been allowed to interpret Holy Quran in the aftermath effect of the Shah Bano case.

When the High Court order came vague, a retired Supreme Court judge asked his former colleague who is this Justice jagdish Bhalla? And,now the ruling BJP leadership had got a much-sought reprieve in the form of the judicial order. The ruins of the Babri Masjid was hounding them day in day out and now the matter rests in the cold storage as possibility that the State BJP government would rectify the legal requirements was not only dim but also remote. It is widely believed that the BJP leadership would go to any extent and would use every tricks to save their skin in skipping the prosecution in razing the over 468-years-old Babri shrine.

There is, however, ray of light at the end of the tunnel. The trial court has fixed June 8 next for the framing of charges against remaining 26 accused covered under case no 197/1992. Out of total accused, senior BJP leader Vijayraje Scindia has died while accused Laxmi Narain Das Mahatyagi has obtained a stay of proceedings against him from the High Court.

While separating the accused of case No. 198/1992, the trial court remarked that in the given circumstances it had only two alternatives: either to keep the whole case pending till the defect as pointed out by the High Court was rectified by the State Government or to drop the proceedings against accused of case No. 198/1992 and proceed against the rest of them as per law. The trial court judge Shri Kant Shukla, in his 34-page order in Hindi further remarked that looking at the intention of the High Court for speedy disposal of the case, it had opted for the second alternative. The case against the then District Magistrate Ravindra Nath Srivastava and SSP D. B. Rai, charged for dereliction of duties, shall proceed along with the remaining accused, the court said.

The CBI counsels are also finding themselves puzzled over the judgement as they say order is coming to the issues which were not raised before it at all. It is likely, they feel, that the order would be chalanged in the High Court in the meantime going for the trial for other accused main among the then DM and SSP of Faizabad. Both of them had joined the BJP and Mr D B Rai, the SSP contested Lok Sabha elections from Faizabad neighbouring Sultanpur seat and won twice. He however for about a year is friend-turned-foe after denied importance in the party and denied ticket for the third time in 1999.

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