November 11, 2019
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The CBI court trial in “criminal conspiracy” to raze down the disputed structure at Ram Janambhoomi in Ayodhya in 1992 is also heading towards culmination, as the sessions court in Lucknow has fixed December 24 as the last day for presenting prosecution evidence. 

The prosecution was recently castigated by the sessions court for not bringing witnesses against Kalyan Singh, the then chief minister, in spite of repeated orders of the court after framing of charges on September 29, 2019. 

On October 5, 2019, the sessions court hearing the matter had said that as per Supreme Court orders, all evidence has to be presented before December 24, 2019, which would be the last working day. 

The trial against BJP leaders L K Advani, Uma Bharti and Murali Manohar Joshi had started at the Lucknow special court on May 25, 2017, after the Supreme Court on April 19, 2017, struck down an Allahabad high court‘s order discharging them in the case. 

 

Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the 16th-century structure was razed on December 6 in 1992, was put to trial two years later in September 2019 when his term as Rajasthan Governor got over. As a governor he had immunity from the legal procedure. 

The Supreme Court in its order on April 19, 2017, had directed to complete the trial within two years. The apex court had again on July 19, 2019, directed that judgment in the case should be delivered within a period of nine months. 

The agency had taken over probe in two crimes — crime no 197 of 1992 against kar sewaks for bringing down the structure, and crime no 198 of 1992 against eight accused L K Advani, Ashok Singhal, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Ritambara, Murli Manohar Joshi, Giriraj Kishore and Vishnu Hari Dalmia related to hate speech. 

The CBI on October 5, 1993, filed a consolidated charge sheet against 48 persons adding 13 accused — Bal Thackeray, Kalyan Singh, Moreshwar Save, Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Mahant Avaidyanath, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma, Prama Hans Ram Chandra Das, and Dr Satish Chandra Nagar. 

On October 8, 1993, the state government amended its notification to include crime number 198 against the eight persons to be tried in Lucknow. The notification was struck down. 

The CBI filed a supplementary charge sheet against the eight accused in 1996 at Lucknow. 

On September 9, 1997, the special judge, Lucknow, passed an order that there was a prima facie case against all the accused persons for framing charges of criminal conspiracy under Section 120-B read with various other sections of the Penal Code.

Citing technical issues in the government notification handing over the case to the Lucknow sessions court, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on February 12, 2001, allowed a single charge sheet for all offences but denied framing of charges against the eight accused in crime number 198. 

The agency requested the state government to amend its notification but it was rejected. The agency filed a supplementary charge sheet in the Rae Bareli court. 

The Lucknow special court on May 4, 2001, dropped proceedings against 21 accused including the eight accused in crime number 198. This was upheld by the high court in 2010. 

In 2003, the Rae Bareli court discharged Advani, then deputy prime minister in case no. 198, but ordered framing of charges against the remaining accused. 

The trial continued in the courts of Lucknow and Rae Bareli, when the CBI in 2012 approached the Supreme Court seeking common trial against all the 48 accused. 

It said that 21 accused, including the 13 not being tried in any court, were part of a criminal conspiracy to raze down the structure. 

The Supreme Court on April 19, 2017, transferred the trial in Rae Bareli to Lucknow with an instruction to finish it in two years.

 

Conrad Contributor

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