473 Witnesses Yet To Testify; SC Asks Judge How Babri Masjid Trial Will Be Completed Before April
On September 10, The Supreme Court asked the trial judge, who is presiding over the Babri Masjid demolition case, that how would he be able to meet the 2019 deadline to pass the verdict. The 2019 deadline is court mandated. Top BJP leaders such as LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and several Karsevaks are arraigned as accused in the case.
Deadline set by Supreme Court
On April 19, 2017, the Supreme Court had asked a CBI judge Surendra Kumar Yadav, looking at the Babri Masjid to continue with the day-to-day works without any delays or adjournments and complete the proceedings of Babri Masjid within two years. A notification was issued by the Apex court stating that CBI judge mustn’t be transferred before the end of the trial.
Later on September 10, a plea was raised by the judge asking cancellation of the notification as his promotion (which also means a transfer) was being stalled due to the ongoing trial. In reply, the bench asked for a sealed cover report explaining how would he deliver the verdict before the 2019 deadline. The Supreme Court had also sought the UP government’s response to the plea of judge S K Yadav’s plea whose promotion was stalled by the Allahabad Court, as he was asked to complete the trial by the Supreme Court before April 19, 2019.
“There shall be no de novo (fresh) trial. There shall be no transfer of the judge conducting the trial until the entire trial concludes. The case shall not be adjourned on any ground except when the sessions court finds it impossible to carry on the trial for that particular date,” the court had said, reported The Indian Express.
What are the charges and progress in the case?
There are two sets of cases related to the politically sensitive 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case. One of the cases involving VVIPs such as LK Advani, Uma Bharati, Murli Manohar Joshi, the trial for which is going on in the Rae Bareli court. The other case is against the Karsevaks, the trial for which is going on in the Lucknow court.
The cases would then be clubbed together in Lucknow. The deadline mandated by the court is on April 19, 2019. The apex court had termed the demolition of the 14th-century mosque a “crime” which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution” and has allowed CBI’s plea to restore criminal conspiracy charge against the top political leaders accused.
Initially, the conspiracy charges against the 21 accused political leaders were dropped. Eight out of these 21 people are already dead. Haji Mahboob Ahmed, who has died since and CBI filed appeals against the dropping of the charges, trial for which is underway.
Besides BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and Bharti, the charges for conspiracy of the demolition were dropped against Kalyan Singh (currently the Governor of Rajasthan), Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore (both have since died).
The others against whom the conspiracy charge was dropped include Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Satish Pradhan, C R Bansal, Ashok Singhal (now deceased), Sadhvi Ritambhara, Mahant Avaidhynath (now deceased), R V Vedanti, Paramhans Ram Chandra Das (now deceased), Jagdish Muni Maharaj, B L Sharma, Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Satish Nagar and Moreshwar Save (now deceased), reported The Times of India.
The CBI had charge-sheeted these accused for disrupting communal harmony, spreading false information to incite violence or mutiny and promoting enmity between two classes. They have been booked under the relevant sections of IPC.
Witnesses to examine
In 2017, it was found that in the 25 years, there were 800 witnesses to testify against the Karsevaks. Till 2017, only 195 have been examined by the court. There were 108 witnesses to testify against the VVIPs but only 58 have been examined.
The courts were given two years to examine the rest of the 656 witnesses. Judge SK Yadav on his plea for transfer has said, “As on date, of a total 1,026 witnesses, 313 examined, 73 discharged, 81 not traceable and 88 dead. 473 yet to testify”, further adding he “has diligently conducted the trial to the best of his ability”.