Significantly, the judge took into account intelligence inputs from both local and central agencies about the possible presence of subversives, some backed by Pakistani agencies and others from Jammu and Kashmir, in Ayodhya.
Key observations of CBI court
The much-awaited verdict was celebrated by Advani, Joshi and others as a validation of their stand that the demolition of the structure was not part of any premeditated plan, but caused disappointment among Muslims.
The acquittal comes in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict allotting the disputed Ayodhya site to Hindus for the construction of Ram Mandir, generating unease among sections of Muslims. The second victory for the Hindutva side can add to the unease.
Prominent Sunni cleric and AIMPLB member Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali said everyone knows how the “Babri Masjid was demolished in full public view” and the “law of the land was shredded to pieces”.
BJP, VHP and others were, however, jubilant over what they saw as the second consecutive judicial imprimatur over their stand on Ayodhya amid the absence of any indication that the CBI could move the high court.
When asked, CBI counsel Lalit Singh said a copy of the judgment would be sent to the agency headquarters in Delhi which would take a further decision. BJP has maintained that the destruction of the mosque was not premeditated. VHP and others have ascribed the events on the fateful day 28 years ago to the spontaneous outburst of pent-up feelings of Hindus.
Just as the accused were acquitted, some of them inside the court loudly chanted “Jai Shri Ram” in the presence of the judge.
However, Shiv Sena has been a defiant exception and even claimed responsibility for the demolition. Not surprisingly, unlike Congress, its coalition partner in Maharashtra, it welcomed the outcome.
The conspiracy charge against Advani had been dropped by the Allahabad high court in 2001, but was restored by the Supreme Court in 2017.
In the much-awaited hearing, the judge occupied his chair in the courtroom at 12.10pm and within five minutes read out the operative part of the judgment, pronouncing acquittal of all the accused. The judge had superannuated on September 30, 2019 but the Supreme Court had extended his service period till delivery of the judgment. The judge did not accept newspapers as pieces of evidence as the original sources of them were not produced and proved. He also did not rely on the photos of incidents as their negatives were not produced. “The video cassettes were not sealed and even the videos were not clear and as such the same cannot be relied upon,” observed the judge.