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Babri Masjid demolition: Will LK Advani, others face criminal conspiracy charges? SC verdict expected today

New Delhi - The Supreme Court is today expected to rule on whether the Allahabad High Court was right to drop charges of criminal conspiracy against senior BJP leaders, including LK Advani, in one of the Babri demolition cases.

The Supreme Court is today likely to announce whether senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshia and Uma Bharti, will stand trial over criminally conspiring to demolish the Babri Masjid in Ayodhaya.

A bench comprising Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman had previously indicated that they were not in favour of the leaders being let off the criminal conspiracy charges and that they would combine the two trials - one in Raebareli and the other in Lucknow - that are currently going on in the matter.

HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

There were two sets of cases relating to the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992. The first involved unnamed 'karsevaks', the trial of which is taking place in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relate to the BJP leaders, including LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, in a Raebareli court.

The Lucknow court is hearing the case against unknown 'karsevaks' who were in and around the Babri Masjid when it was pulled down.

On April 6, the Supreme Court bench had indicated that they may order holding of joint trial of the two sets of cases by transferring the trial from Raebareli to the Lucknow court.

The bench had also said since 25 years have already passed, in the interest of justice, it would consider ordering a time-bound trial on day-to-day basis, to be completed preferably within two years.

Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for Advani and Joshi, had vociferously opposed the proposal for holding joint trial and transferring their case from Raebareli to Lucknow.

The clubbing of two FIRs was opposed by the counsel for the accused on the ground that there were different sets of persons named as accused in the two cases, the trial of which were at an advanced stage at two different places. They were of the view that joint trial would lead to the beginning of de novo (afresh) proceedings.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, which is prosecuting the cases, had clarified that it was not making any submission on the issue of the trial of the BJP leaders accused in the case but restricting itself to restoration of the charge of conspiracy against them.

The conspiracy charge against the 13 accused including Advani, Joshi and Bharti, was dropped by the Raebareli court.

The appeals were filed by one Haji Mahboob Ahmad (since dead) and the CBI against dropping of conspiracy charges against 21 accused including the top BJP leaders. Eight of the accused have since died.

A supplementary charge sheet was filed against eight persons but not the 13 who were discharged for plotting the demolition.

Besides BJP leaders Advani, Joshi and Bharti, conspiracy charges were dropped against Kalyan Singh (currently the Governor of Rajasthan), Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore, the latter two 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).

The appeals have sought setting aside the Allahabad High Court's order of May 20, 2010, dropping section 120B (criminal conspiracy) under the Indian Penal Code while upholding a special court's decision.

CBI had charge-sheeted Advani and 20 others under sections 153A (promoting enmity between classes), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (false statements, rumours etc circulated with the intent to cause mutiny or disturb public peace) of the IPC.

It had subsequently invoked charges under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC which was quashed by the special court whose decision was upheld by the high court.

While upholding the special court's order, the Allahabad High Court had said CBI at no point of time, either during the trial at Rae Bareily or in its revision petition, ever stated that there was offence of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.

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