The September 2020 verdict of a special CBI court acquitting the 32 accused in the 1992 Babri Masjid Demolition case has been challenged in the Allahabad High Court. Haji Mahboob and Haji Sayyad Akhlaq Ahmad, who claim they witnessed the demolition of the mosque in Ayodhya, have sought directions to set aside the verdict which exonerated BJP leaders like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti among others.
Mehboob and Ahmad challenged the verdict on behalf of the All India Muslims Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) "after the CBI did not move the high court against the acquittal." Apart from witnessing the destruction of the 16th-century mosque, Mehboob and Ahmad were also victims of the communal riots that ensued.
CBI Court erred in appreciating evidence: Appeal in HC
The special CBI court had failed to appreciate the evidence produced against the accused in "its right perspective". The sessions court "acted illegally and with material irregularity in holding that the accused persons were not involved in the Commission of Crime and their involvement could not be proved from the evidence on record," the plea read. The court "had closed his eyes upon the clear cut and overwhelming evidence of eyewitnesses and looked the other way ignoring the same on extraneous and unlawful reasons."
The plea said special judge SK Yadav—who tried the case—"failed to appreciate the basic facts that these attacks are not against any individual, they are meant to act as threat to an entire religious community charged by communal hatred and by targeting certain individuals, their properties and belongings, as well desecrating their religious place at Ayodhya as well as in other cities too".
"The idea (of the mosque's demolition) is to intimidate and cause fear in the minds of minority, with an aim to instigate the community to react and thereby create a spiral or violence in which the control is with the hate-mongering groups of the majority community," the appeal that was filed before the Lucknow bench of the high court read.
"The core of the entire case emanates from promoting enmity between different persons on grounds of religion prejudicing maintenance of harmony amongst the citizenry. The applicants are the victims of consistent hate campaign manufactured by the accused persons to promote communalism-based hatred dividing the people on religious and racist lines to achieve their slanting and oblique motives," the plea added.
Unidentified lawless elements, not the political leaders responsible for demolition: CBI Court
The appeal comes three months after the verdict—which came 28 years after the mosque was destroyed—was delivered in the matter pertaining to the two FIRs. The first, 197/92 was "against lacs of kar sevaks", while the second one 198/92 was against BJP leaders for hate speech and provoking the crowd. The criminal trial in the Babri Masjid demolition case is different from the title dispute case where Hindu and Muslim factions slugged it out over 2.77 acres of land—purportedly the birthplace of Lord Ram and where the Babri Masjid once stood.
The verdict—that ran in more than 2,300 pages—ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the demolition was a pre-mediated conspiracy. Special judge Yadav had observed that organizations (BJP, RSS and the VHP) had tried to protect the Mughal monument since the idol of Ram Lalla (Lord Ram as a minor) was installed under the central dome of the mosque. The judge had also ruled out criminal conspiracy calling the act "spontaneous".
The court observed the case against the kar sevaks and the eight VVIP accused collapsed primarily because of the CBI's mishandling of the evidence. "Unidentified lawless elements" and not the political leaders were responsible for the demolition of the mosque, the court ruled.
The court gave a clean chit to the once high-ranking officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) like former deputy prime minister LK Advani, Uttar Pradesh CM and Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh, former Madhya Pradesh CM Uma Bharti, leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Vinay Katiyar and Sakshi Maharaj. Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, who heads both Ayodhya's largest temple—the Mani Ram Das Ki Chavani and the Sri Ram Janambhoomi Teerath Kshetra Trust, along with Champat Rai—chairman of the Trust, were also exonerated.