‘Vindicated’ LK Advani Remains on Trial in Babri Demolition Case

The Ayodhya verdict does not alter the fact that the Babri Masjid was illegally destroyed, in fact it confirms this.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read

Cameraperson: Sumit Badola
Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

(A special CBI court will pronounce its judgment in the decades-old Babri Masjid demolition case on 30 September, in which former deputy prime minister LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti are among the 32 accused. In light of this development, we are republishing this article and video from The Quint's archives, which was originally published on 6 December 2019 after LK Advani’s comments about being vindicated by the Supreme Court’s verdict on the title dispute.)

I stand vindicated, and feel deeply blessed, that the Supreme Court has given its unanimous verdict paving the way for the construction of a magnificent temple for Lord Ram at Ramjanmabhhoomi in Ayodhya.”
LK Advani (emphasis supplied)

That’s how veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani welcomed the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Ayodhya title dispute on 9 November 2019.

But has LK Advani – the man who drove the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 80s, who put the BJP on the electoral map with HIS rath yatra and incendiary speeches – really been vindicated?

Many believe that the Supreme Court judgment puts this whole disgraceful episode of Indian history to bed.

In fact, Advani’s statement went on to say:

“...the time has come to leave all acrimony behind and embrace communal concord and peace.”

A lovely sentiment, no doubt.

But it might be useful for those claiming closure to read these lines from the Supreme Court judgment:

“The destruction of the mosque took place in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance given to this Court. The destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law.”

Now this Supreme Court judgment doesn’t and can’t itself do anything about this egregious violation of the rule of law. But despite the collective amnesia, which seems to have gripped much of this country, it hasn’t been forgotten.

Status of the Criminal Case Regarding Destruction of Babri Masjid

I’m talking here, about the long-running criminal cases that arose out of those shameful events on 6 December 1992.

Including, if I may remind Mr Advani, the case against him and his colleagues like Uma Bharati, Murli Manohar Joshi, Giriraj Singh and Sadhvi Rithambara for their alleged role in the debacle, for:

  • Section 147, IPC – Rioting.
  • Section 149, IPC – Unlawful assembly.
  • Section 153A, IPC – Promoting hate and enmity on the grounds of religion.
  • Section 153B, IPC – Assertions prejudicial to national integration.
  • Section 295, IPC – Destruction of a place of worship.
  • Section 505, IPC – Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.

Oh, and there’s also the small matter of criminal conspiracy (Section 120B, IPC), that he tried hard to have dropped.

Now it’s been a long and difficult road to get this case tried, even though an FIR was registered against Advani and co on the evening of 6 December 1992 itself.

1993

The CBI filed its consolidated charge sheet – against unknown kar sevaks and Advani, Joshi, Bharti, et al in 1993. Then a supplementary charge sheet in 1996, adding more prominent BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh figures.

2001

But in 2001, Advani and co successfully argued in the Allahabad High Court that the charges against them were wrongly framed, thanks to an administrative lapse by the UP government.

This ‘lapse’ could have been cured by the UP government, but surprise, surprise, then UP Chief Minister Rajnath Singh declined to do so.

2003

In 2003, the CBI tried to revive the case in a Raebareli court – which then promptly went on to discharge Advani altogether.

2005

The Allahabad High Court set aside this Raebareli court order in 2005 – but even though it said Advani was to stand trial, it ordered the dropping of conspiracy charges in 2010.

The CBI moved the Supreme Court in 2012 to sort out this confused mess.

In 2017, the Supreme Court Steps in

Five years later, on 19 April 2017, the Supreme Court

  • Revived the conspiracy charges against Advani et al.
  • Clubbed all the cases to be heard together by a special CBI judge in Lucknow who could not be transferred, and
  • Said the trial had to be completed in 2 years.

Justice Rohinton Nariman’s judgment (on behalf of himself and Justice PC Ghose) invoked the apex court’s power to do “complete justice” under Article 142 of the Constitution, and said:

“This court has the power, nay, the duty to do complete justice in a case when found necessary. In the present case, crimes which shake the secular fabric of the Constitution... have allegedly been committed almost 25 years ago.”

Make that 27 years now, and counting, with the deadline extended to April 2020.

But the wheels of justice are turning, however slowly and inefficiently.

Over 300 witnesses have been examined, volumes of documentary evidence have been submitted. There are hundreds more witnesses to come.

Even then UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, who had been able to escape the framing of charges back in 2017 because he was Governor of Rajasthan at the time, is now in the dock.

On the Supreme Court’s instructions, he was charged on 27 September 2019, after his tenure as Governor ended, and evidence against him is currently being led in the trial court.

This is not to say everything is wonderful. The delay in getting this case heard is in itself a denial of justice. Furthermore, some 50 witnesses have passed away and even some of the accused have died.

At the end of the day, LK Advani may not be convicted by the court. Even if convicted by the court, he could still appeal, putting off a final decision for several years.

However, his role in the whole sorry saga – from the allegations of being part of a meeting at Vinay Katiyar’s house on 5 December 1992, to the speeches he gave from a platform 200 metres away on 6 December when he called for a temple to be built on that spot – his role will not be forgotten.

And he certainly will not be vindicated.

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