Babri Masjid Demolition Case (Crime No. 198/1992)

Lucknow: In the previous article, we discussed as to how Crime No. 197/1992 has as yet fared in during the last two decades. Here we will discuss as to what has been the status of the other Babri demolition case known as “Crime No. 198/1992”. Both these criminal cases had been going on since 6 December 1992 -- the day when Babri Masjid was demolished.

The Crime No. 198/1992 pertains to high-profile persons who all are primarily the movers and shakers of the Ram Temple movement. Ironically, not any of them is not even within the close periphery of the remotest possibility of ever being brought to justice!

 To put the tit-bits in a nutshell, it would be worthy to mention that the second First Information Report (FIR) was lodged on Dec 6, 1992, by Ganga Prasad Tiwari-U/S 153-A, 153-B (imputations prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief). This case was filed against eight high-profile BJP/VHP leaders: LK Advani, MM Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishor, Sadhvi Rithambra and Vishnu Hari Dalmia. The above sections of the Indian Penal Code are cited by police when rabidly communal speeches are delivered. The FIR was in context to the speeches delivered in the morning of Dec 6 prior to the demolition.  

It took just four days for the state government, on Dec 10, 1992, to entrust the crime for investigation to Crime-Bureau Chief Investigation Department, UP (CB-CID). Six days later, on Dec 16, 1992, the state government, in consultation with the High Court, Lucknow, set up a Special Court of Judicial Magistrate at Lalitpur, UP. On Feb 27, 1993, the chargesheet was filed U/S 153-A, 153-B, 505, 147 (punishment for rioting), 149 (membership of unlawful assembly, guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of IPC. This chargesheet was later enhanced by CB-CID at Lalitpur, UP. On March 1, 1993 the Magistrate at Lalitpur, UP took cognizance of the same. Later, on July 8, 1993, the same case was shifted to Rae Bareli, UP.

 This was followed by state government requesting the central government, on Aug 25, 1993 to refer Crime No. 198/1992 to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Finally, the case was handed over to CBI, on Aug 26, 1993. The next move came in the form of state government, in consultation of the HC, creating a Special Court at Lucknow on Sept 8, 1993. On the next day, Sept 9, 1993, in consultation with HC, the state government referred Crime No. 197/1992 as well as 47 other related cases (which stemmed from the same event) to the Special Court headed by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM Ayodhya Prakaran) at Lucknow, UP.  This was also called as “CBI Court”.  

Next month, on Oct 5, 1993, the CBI filed a consolidated chargesheet against all the eight high profile accused in the Crime No. 198/1992 and the Crime No. 197/1992. On Oct 8, 1993 the state government referred to it Crime No. 198/1992. Here, what might have then looked to be as an inadvertent error, now looks like a well-planned, deliberate step, as the state government then failed to consult the HC before this move. It may be reiterated that the state was then under the Congress-created President’s rule, which served two terms in order to contain the Muslim anger over the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

 No one then realised as to what was in store, as things were soon going to be derailed shielding the guilty. The prosecution process took a further step when on Oct 11, 1993, as the ACJM took cognizance of both the cases at Lucknow, and further on Jan 24, 1994, the record which was lying at Rae Bareli, UP was brought to Lucknow. The cases were, thereafter, committed to ACJM, Lucknow, and the case continued until Sept 9, 1997, when the ACJM, Lucknow charged the accused U/S 147, 153-A, 153-B, 295, 295-A, 505 read with 120-B (conspiracy) of IPC. Here for the first time the conspiracy charge was levelled.

 The moment the conspiracy charge came into play, the order was challenged by the accused at the Lucknow bench of Allahabad HC which, finally, led Justice Jagdish Bhalla to order on Feb 12, 2001 that since the reference of Crime No. 198/1992 was not done in consultation with the HC, the Sessions Court was in no position to try the accused. The lacunae was curable as the state government was in a position to issue a fresh notification but this was not done as the BJP was then in power in UP.

 The irony is that, later, when BSP-BJP government was rounded-up for the issuance of a fresh notification, and the case reached even the Supreme Court, the then CM Mayawati informed that there was no such need for a fresh notification as the case was already running at Rae Bareli; hence, all the prosecution-exercise of 1994-2001 came to a naught. A further irony was that the same Mulayam Singh Yadav who, had cornered Mayawati on this issue, took over as CM in 2003, but he too sat on the file throughout his tenure until 2007.

“The worst part is that CBI later filed a further chargesheet dropping the conspiracy charge. All at the behest of BJP while Advani is presiding over the home ministry at the Centre. CBI has never been an independent organisation. It has always held brief for the ruling government. The same compliance carried on even when the UPA took over in 2004 and today there is no possibility of the culprits to be ever brought to justice,” said Muhammed Azam Khan. He had been associated with Babri Masjid campaign from the very beginning.

“CBI in its desperation to please its NDA masters, deleted the conspiracy charge in its supplementary chargesheet against LK Advani filed at Rae Bareli Court on March 30, 2003, and thus paved the way for his discharge order from the Babri Masjid demolition case. This happened on Sept 19, 2003 by the First Class Magistrate. Later, all the other high-profile accused got the criminal proceedings “stayed” on the same grounds, on Sept 30, 2003 from the HC. It became more than obvious that the CBI was being remote-controlled by the NDA when the CBI did not file a revision against the discharge order of Advani. Rather, it went to the extent of “opposing” the revision filed by the Muslim side in the case. The CBI made the NDA to call solicitor general RN Trivedi to oppose the Muslim side revision petition, which ultimately had led Justice YR Tripathi at the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, on July 5, 2005, to order that prima facie the charge against all the eight accused, including Advani was maintainable,” informed Zafaryab Jilani, the co-convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee. The case got a fresh lease of life at Rae Bareli albeit without the conspiracy charge.

 Seven years have gone past since Tripathi’s order, and it may be put on record that in the last 19 years, only 14 witnesses could be produced, out of the 148 expected from the CBI list! CBI, meanwhile, desired that the proceedings may be fixed for 10 days a month, and a subsequent order was passed by the District Session Judge, Rae Bareli, on July 22, 2011 directing Special Judicial Magistrate for the same. Obviously that rang a bell amongst the accused, and one of them, VH Dalmia, went to the HC against the order, but the courts held it otherwise, as on Dec 8, 2011 Justice SN Shukla and Justice SVS Rathore quashed that order, and directed that from now onwards a day-to-day hearing would be held.

 “This is a reasonable order as it has clarified the urgency of the matter and directed the court to proceed with the case in accordance with the requirements of law by rectifying the error committed by the District Judge,” said Zafaryab Jilani adding that according to Civil Procedural Code, the case should proceed on a day-to-day basis.

“The efficacy of CBI into its prosecution is now all exposed. The courts have given a fillip to the clay-feet CBI and we may expect some result or else all the accused will sit pretty. CBI is already contesting half of what it stood for. The conspiracy charge is gone. We have just 153 (A) and 153(B) and let’s see as to how long will this suffice to take its own legal shape. All thanks to Congress party,” said Muhammed Azam Khan.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2012 on page no. 5

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