Now that the Supreme Court has delivered its verdict in the much-awaited Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute case, the focus will shift to the second Ayodhya case pertaining to the Babri Masjid demolition that took place on December 6, 1992.
This case, related to the alleged criminal conspiracy behind the demolition of the mosque, is in the final stages of hearing in a Special CBI court in Lucknow.
Some high-profile names of Indian politics are the accused in the case, which has been going on for almost three decades now. Some of the accused persons in the case have already passed away.
The first FIR in this case, related to the demolition of the Babri Mosque, was registered immediate after it was brought down on December 6, 1992.
This first FIR no. 197/92 was registered against unknown ‘karsevaks’ under Sections 395, 397, 332, 337, 338, 295, 297, 153A of IPC, and Section 7 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
Minutes later, a second FIR no. 198/92 was registered under Sections 153A, 153B, 505 of the IPC against L.K. Advani, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Ritambhara. This was related to provocative speeches promoting enmity delivered ahead of the demolition.
Forty-seven other FIRs were registered in cases related to offences of assault on mediapersons, looting valuables like cameras and reporting gadgets etc. All FIRs were filed at the Ram Janmabhoomi police station in Ayodhya.
A few days later, the government recommended the demolition case no. 197 to the CBI, while the second case no. 198 was handed over to the CB-CID branch of the UP police. A year later, however, the second case was also transferred to the CBI.
The CBI, which took up investigation in all the 49 cases related to Babri Masjid demolition, filed a consolidated charge sheet against 40 people these cases in a special court in Lucknow on October 5, 1993.
Two years later, in January 1996, the agency filed a supplementary charge sheet against nine other prominent people, taking the total tally of accused persons to 49.
A charge of criminal conspiracy under Section 120(b) was added against the accused with the CBI claiming to have concrete and strong evidence to prove that the demolition of the mosque was the fallout of a larger and sinister conspiracy.
After the charge sheet was filed against the top leaders of the BJP and the RSS, the matter got entangled in legal complexities as some of the accused moved the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court against the lower court’s decision to frame the charges. The matter kept lingering through legal manoeuvrings.
In 2001, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court passed a detailed order saying that there was no illegality in a joint single charge sheet for all the FIRs, since the offences were allegedly committed in same course of action for accomplishing a conspiracy.
The high court, however, said the state government’s faulty notification for fixing the trial court dated October 8, 1993 was curable and could be done so through another notification.
The CBI wrote to the UP government, asking it to rectify the error as pointed out by the high court and issue a fresh notification empowering the special court for resuming trial but the then Rajnath Singh government in Uttar Pradesh decided not to issue any fresh notification.
The CBI then moved a petition in the designated court of Rae Bareli, requesting the court to start to proceed with the trial of the case 198/92 related to hate speeches against Advani and others.
Special magistrate Rae Bareli discharged Advani in case no. 198/92, but ordered framing of charges against the remaining accused. Advani was then the deputy prime minister of India.
In 2005, the high court heard several review petitions filed against the Rae Bareli court’s order of acquitting Advani and ordered re-framing of charges against him and all the other accused.
Subsequently, the Rae Bareli court framed charges against all the accused.
The CBI finally reached the Supreme Court in 2011 and pleaded for a common trial of all the 49 cases.
The Supreme Court in 2017, ruled against the Allahabad High Court order of dropping conspiracy charges. The apex court ordered for invoking of conspiracy charges against the accused, including Advani and 20 others, and bringing back the trial of all cases was also brought back to the Lucknow court.
Meanwhile, one of the accused, Kalyan Singh, became Governor of Rajasthan, and gained legal immunity. However, in September when he completed his gubernatorial assignment, trial against him has also begun.
A number of accused, including Bal Thackeray, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore and others, have passed away during the 27 years of the case.
The court has examined around 300 witnesses so far and around 50 of them have passed away. Besides, volumes of written statements, press reports and government orders have been part of the evidences.
Senior advocate I.B. Singh, who had argued in defence of several of the accused, said, “The trial is in its last phase now, and a few more witnesses are to be examined, mostly against Kalyan Singh. We expect completion of trial in the case in the days to come.”
Singh said, “The case has been marked by drawbacks from the first day, including why different FIRs were registered for a crime related to the same incident. Over the years, it has been more an effort of political witch hunt rather than serious investigation of the crime.”