Indian minister, party leaders to be tried in mosque demolition case

According to NDTV reports, Shah telephoned Advani after finalising the party's strategy for handling the situation in the wake of the top court restored criminal conspiracy cases and put to trial top BJP leaders, including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Union Minister Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar. Advani, 89, along with party colleagues, was originally charged with making inflammatory speeches that motivated lakhs of karsevaks to pull down the 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.

The charges against the BJP leaders, brought by the CBI, had been blocked by the Allahabad High Court.

A Supreme Court ruling has spelt trouble for some prominent senior leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Asking the trial court to complete the trial and deliver judgment within two years from the date of receipt of its judgment, the top court said that CBI "shall ensure that on every date fixed for evidence, some prosecution witnesses must remain present, so that for want of witnesses the matter be not adjourned". This act was followed by widespread communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in various parts of the country.

The Supreme Court ruled that a fourth senior BJP politician, Kalyan Singh, who was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the incident, should face criminal conspiracy charges.

Hindu saint Mahant Dharamdas said he supports the Supreme Court's decision and will continue to do that will the upcoming verdicts. Our demand is that Kalyan Singh, presently a Governor, should not cling on technicalities by speaking of immunity, and resign from that post and face the trial.

A bench of Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman said there can not be two trials - one at Rae Bareili against Advani and others and another at Lucknow against "karsevaks" - in connection with the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

"The Court of Sessions will frame charges and move against him as soon as he ceases to be Governor", the bench said as it allowed a CBI appeal against the dropping of conspiracy charges against the veteran BJP leaders.

Further questioning the role of the CBI in the case, Jilani said, "We know the exact reason for the delay in the trial by the CBI but since the SC will now monitor the case itself, the role of the CBI would minimise".

The announcement comes as Advani seeks the official nomination of the BJP for the upcoming presidential elections in July.

As 656 witnesses from different parts of the country are yet to be examined in the case and the accused will then cross-examine them, it will be very hard for the trial judge to wrap up proceedings within two years.

A lower court had earlier dropped conspiracy charges against the four in a case that has languished in India's sluggish legal system for nearly 25 years.

Addition of conspiracy charges do not enhance the maximum punishment of five years in jail, as prescribed under the alleged offences that mainly related to promotion of enmity between different groups on the ground of religion.

"By doing kar seva in Ayodhya we will not be disrespecting any court order", he thundered amid applause by the swelling crowd.

The Congress today said the law of the land should prevail in the Masjid demolition case and the guilty should be punished. Rather, the criminal conspiracy charges would be joined into one.

  • Leroy Wright