A special CBI court in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh acquitted all 32 accused of all charges in the criminal trial pertaining to the Babri Masjid demolition case that tried senior BJP leaders such as LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti among others.
Reading out the more than 2000-page judgement, the judge further ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the demolition was a pre-mediated conspiracy. The organization (BJP, RSS and the VHP) 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.
Prosecution's case collapsed due to insufficient evidence
According to the court's observation, the case against the karsevaks and the eight VVIPs collapsed primarily because of the central probe agency's mishandling of the evidence. The court observed that the evidence submitted in court - pieces of the mosque that was demolished; audio/video evidence that allegedly incriminated the accused; newspaper clippings submitted without bylines are a few examples of how the prosecution failed to present evidence as per the law. The court noted submissions made by senior police officers where they investigated the case as per their own procedure disregarding procedural rules laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The court further noted submissions of the lead investigating officer M Narayanan who admitted that police did not even try to authenticate news reports and simply submitted typed copies of newspapers without bylines or date of publication as "evidence". Documents, evidence and statements were also not authenticated properly and are therefore not considered to be evidence as per the act.
The court further noted that the mere presence of political leaders on a stage does not mean that they were aware of any violence that may break out. "Unidentified lawless elements" were responsible for the demolition of the mosque, the court ruled.
High ranking officials get a clean chit
Once high-ranking officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) who were on trial also included former Uttar Pradesh CM and Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh, along with 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 among the accused.
Of the 32 accused, 27 were present in court, while the remaining five joined court through video conferencing due to restrictions related to the pandemic on account of the novel coronavirus.
The verdict—which came 28 years after the mosque was destroyed—was delivered in the matter related to two FIRs. The first, 197/92 was "against lacs of karsevaks", 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. In November 2019, the Supreme Court five-judge constitution bench unanimously granted rights of the disputed land to Lord Ram. A Trust was empowered to construct the new Ram Temple on it.
In its verdict, the constitution bench had observed that "the entire structure of the mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship" thereby denying Muslim who were " wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago."
In 2017, the Supreme Court while reviving charges against senior members of the BJP had directed the special CBI court to conduct the trial on a day-to-day basis. Since then, the top court granted the special court four extensions to complete the trial and deliver the verdict today.
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