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Published in the 16-30 Jun 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Movement likely on Babri front
By PM Damodaran

Lucknow: After the change of guard at the Centre following the Lok Sabha elections, there is likely to be a new turn in the Ayodhya Babri Masjid demolition case in the coming days. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has sought the intervention of the newly-formed United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre for a speedy trial of the accused, including the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, LK Advani, in the demolition case.

A delegation of the board recently met the Union Law Minister, HR Bhardwaj, and drew his attention towards the fact that there was a deliberate delay on the part of the CBI in properly taking up the case. The delegation alleged that the earlier NDA government was trying to save the accused BJP and VHP leaders in the case. The Board delegation briefed the Law Minister as to how the CBI was used by the NDA government to save the Sangh Parivar leaders in the case.

The fact is that the CBI did not challenge the Rae Bareli court order of September 19 last year absolving Advani.It was only logical on the part of the CBI (or any prosecuting agency) to challenge a lower court verdict in the higher court if the verdict went against it. But the CBI, apparently under pressure from the then NDA government, failed to challenge the Rae Bareli court verdict against Mr. Advani. 

Besides, the CBI also did not oppose the criminal revision petitions filed by the former HRD minister, Murli Manohar Joshi and six others in the demolition case and stay granted by a Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court. It may be recalled that while acquitting Mr. Advani in the case, the Rae Bareli court had allowed the CBI to frame charges against seven others, including Joshi, Uma Bharti (now the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh), Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Acharya Giriraj Kishore and Sadhvi Ritambhara in the case. 

The Board delegation suggested the shifting of case No. 198/92, in which the accused included eight top Sangh Parivar leaders, to the Lucknow court and try it along with case No. 197/92. The prosecution had filed two cases, one against the top eight leaders and the other against the others under case No. 197/92 soon after the demolition on December 6, 1992. But the court later set up two separate courts in Lucknow and Rae Bareli to try the cases. The delegation also wanted to expedite the trial in the demolition case for a speedy conclusion by holding day-to-day hearing as is being done in the case of the Ayodhya title suits. The Board will meet on July 4 to further discuss the matter.

In the meantime, the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) has written to the chairperson of the UPA Co-ordination Committee, Sonia Gandhi, seeking her intervention for the speedy trial in the demolition case. In the letter, the convener of the Committee, Zafaryab Jilani, alleged that instead of prosecuting the Babri Masjid conspirators, the CBI had been busy saving them while the NDA was in power. The letter reminded Mrs. Gandhi how the Congress, which is the leader of the UPA now, and the left had stalled the proceedings in Parliament over the dropping of Section 120-B of the IPC by the CBI while submitting supplementary chargesheets against top Sangh Parivar leaders in the case. The Congress and the left leaders then said that the CBI had not only dropped the all important Section 120-B in the chargesheet but also did not produce substantive material evidence in the Rae Bareli court which facilitated the acquittal of Mr. Advani.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government under Mulayam Singh Yadav, has squarely blamed the top Sangh Parivar leaders for the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 ‘under a well-thought conspiracy’. In its written submission before the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry, which is probing the demolition case separately from the law courts, the U.P. government has specifically blamed the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Kalyan Singh for the demolition. The submission said that the then Prime Minister, Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao was ‘indirectly involved in the conspiracy’. 

Mr. Yadav had deposed before the Commission in May 1995 and said almost the same thing then. Now his government has said it in writing. What is surprising is that the Mulayam Singh Yadav government has now squarely blamed the former chief minister Mr. Kalyan Singh for the demolition. In fact, Mr. Singh was a partner in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government till the beginning of this year when he decided to return to the BJP-fold. Mr. Singh was in the forefront in helping Mr. Yadav to form the government in August last year after Mayawati resigned the chief ministership following differences with her alliance partner, the BJP. The Samajwadi Party leaders had then cleared Mr. Singh of his involvement in the demolition of the Babri masjid. «

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