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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2003 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Babri Criminal conspiracy charge
Did CBI director Sharma mislead?
By P M Damodaran

Lucknow: The claim made by the retiring CBI director, PC Sharma that the criminal conspiracy charge under Section 120-B of the IPC was not in the original chargesheet filed in the Rae Bareli court by the state police against the BJP stalwarts, including the Union Home Minister, LK Advani and Human Resources Development Minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi in the Ayodhya demolition case is true. But Mr Sharma had not stated the whole truth and thus his statement had given a misleading impression. 

Making the investigative agency’s stand clear in a statement on November 23, Mr Sharma had clarified “I can only say this much that it was a case which was originally investigated by Uttar Pradesh police. It was chargesheeted in the Rae Bareli court by the state police.” He further stated that the case was transferred to the CBI after the Rae Bareli court had taken cognizance of the state police chargesheet, which did not have section 120-B (criminal conspiracy charge). The CBI director had further stated that the controversy was “totally unfounded. I will not accept this criticism that CBI did something or took away the charge when it was never there.”

But to say that the CBI did not take away the criminal conspiracy charge is contrary to the truth. The consolidated chargesheet filed by the CBI itself against all the accused in case Nos. 197/92 and 198/92 (the latter pertaining to the eight BJP stalwarts including Mr. Advani and Dr Joshi and the former against all the other accused) in Lucknow special court on October 5, 1993 had contained this criminal conspiracy charge under section 120-B of the IPC. They were also chargesheeted under sections 153-A, 153-B, 295-A and 505. The CBI in its consolidated chargesheet had written that all the accused had entered into a criminal conspiracy during the period from October 1990 to December 6, 1992 with a view to liberate three temples in Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura and they assertively started the process with the demolition of Babri Mosque. 

Significantly the Lucknow special court had taken cognizance of the CBI’s consolidated chargesheet, which also contained the criminal conspiracy charge, and allowed framing of charges against all the accused. Later the Allahabad High Court too upheld the consolidated chargesheet. This meant that the CBI had accepted the fact that there was a conspiracy charge against these eight BJP leaders and this fact was also upheld by the courts. 

However, the High Court in 2001 quashed the Uttar Pradesh government notification of 1993 transferring the case No.198/92 from the Rae Bareli court to the Lucknow court on the technical ground that it had not secured the prior permission of the court to transfer the case. The court had then specifically stated that the state government might take legal remedies so that both the cases could be tried in the Lucknow court together as desired by it. But the subsequent governments in Uttar Pradesh did not act on the proposal of the High Court. Later, the Mayawati government last year proposed to the Supreme Court that the Rae Bareli court be revived and allowed to try the case No.198/92 against the top BJP leaders.

Now what forbids the premier investigating agency to file its own supplementary chargesheet in the Rae Bareli court incorporating the criminal conspiracy charges? The CBI has the power to file supplementary chargesheet at any time during the trial. In fact, legal experts say the investigating agency had filed supplementary chargesheets in several cases after the courts had taken cognizance of the chargesheets filed by the police.

In the Ayodhya demolition case, the CBI has a moral right to file a supplementary chargesheet in the Rae Bareli court incorporating the criminal conspiracy charge because the agency itself had held this view earlier as is evident from its consolidated chargesheet filed in the Lucknow court.

Moreover, when a case is transferred from the state police to the CBI, it is done for a better investigation in the case. The police case may be weak and after the agency takes over the case, it may get further clues. So it is pertinent for the CBI to file supplementary chargesheets, whether the courts had earlier taken cognizance of the police chargesheets or not, to try the case effectively. In the Ayodhya demolition case, the chargesheet filed by the state police agency CB-CID in Rae Bareli was based on preliminary investigations. When the CBI took over the case, it had more details and as such had filed a fresh chargesheet against the accused incorporating the criminal conspiracy charge. 
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