Babri Masjid case: Criminal conspiracy charges against Advani, Joshi, Bharti; Naidu says BJP leaders innocent

LK Advani met Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath after he arrived at the VVIP guest house in Lucknow before leaving for the special court on Tuesday.

A special CBI court also granted bail to LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti after they appeared before it in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition case.

Senior BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti were on Tuesday charged with criminal conspiracy in the 1992 Babri mosque demolition case by a special CBI court in Lucknow. (Highlights)

The demolition of the mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, unleashed some of the deadliest religious riots across the country since independence, killing about 2,000 people.

The special court granted bail to Advani (89), Joshi (83) and Bharti (58) but rejected their discharge petition and framed the charges of criminal conspiracy.

Three others — BJP’s Vinay Katiyar (62), VHP’s Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, who is in his late eighties, and Hindutva firebrand Sadhvi Rithambara (53) — were also charged under Section 120 (B) of the IPC (criminal conspiracy).

All six were given bail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each by CBI special judge SK Yadav. They appeared before the court in the light of a Supreme Court order restoring the serious offence of criminal conspiracy against them.

The to court had on April 19 ordered the prosecution of Advani, Joshi, Bharti and the others, directing that the trial be concluded in two years. It had called the destruction of the mosque a “crime” which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution”.

“I was present in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, which is no secret. Crores of BJP workers, lakhs of officials and thousands of political leaders participated.

“It was an open movement like the movement against the Emergency. I don’t see any conspiracy…I don’t consider myself guilty,” Bharti told the media.

Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu strongly defended the BJP leaders, saying: “Our leaders are innocent. They will come out unscathed.” He said he would not comment beyond it as the matter is in the court.

The trial of senior BJP leaders will raise fresh questions about Hindu nationalism within Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party at a time when critics accuse his supporters of trying to marginalise minority groups and redefine India as a Hindu nation.

“The judge accepted our plea to charge the leaders with criminal conspiracy and the accused are already facing trial for making provocative speeches that incited Hindus to pull down the Babri mosque,” said MR Shamshad, a lawyer representing Muslim leaders and victims of the violence.

The accused argued against the framing of charges against them, asserting that they had no role in the razing of the mosque and had tried to stop it. Their discharge petitions were rejected by the judge.

The court was hearing two separate cases relating to the demolition of the 16th-century mosque.

Six others accused in the second case — Ramvilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma , Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Nritya Gopaldas, Dharam Das and Satish Pradhan — were also charged with conspiracy and offences such as promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc. and defiling a place of worship with the intent to insult a religion.

Vedanti and the other five were, under various IPC sections, also charged with imputations prejudicial to national integration, committing deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings, making statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.

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