Exactly 10 years ago, on September 30, 2010, a three-judge bench of Allahabad high court had pronounced the verdict in Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit. The verdict was later challenged in the Supreme Court.
Of the 48 accused named in the original chargesheet filed by the CBI in 1993, 32 of them, including Advani, former UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Ritambhara and Ram Mandir Tirth Kshetra Trust secretary Champat Rai, are facing trial. The remaining 16, including Bal Thackeray and Ashok Singhal, died during the course of trial.
The court had heard the final arguments of the defence and prosecution on September 1, 2020, and reserved its judgment, CBI counsel Lalit Singh told TOI.
In its April 2017 order, the Supreme Court had ordered that the trial should be completed within two years by holding day-to-day hearings. The hearing at the Lucknow court began on May 21, 2017. However, the SC extended the deadline by three months and again by a month before the completion of the two-year deadline.
The criminal case is in connection with two FIRs lodged with Ayodhya police in 1992 after the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6. The first — FIR number 197 was against ‘lakhs of kar sevaks’ for the demolition of the structure and the FIR number 198 against 48 Sangh Parivar functionaries for conspiracy.
The trial in the case earlier continued at two courts in Rae Bareli and Lucknow, but the SC, in its April 2017 order, asked for a joint trial at Lucknow. The CBI moved SC in 2012 after the Allahabad high court dropped charges of criminal conspiracy against Advani and 13 others in 2010.
The SC reinstated the conspiracy charges and asked for speedy trial. All the accused had to appear before the court for seeking bail when the regular hearing started on May 21, 2017. However, a number of them, like Advani and Joshi, appeared through video-conferencing for the hearing during the lockdown.
The SC had stopped the court from putting Kalyan Singh on trial as long he was holding the post of governor in Rajasthan. His trial started in September 2019 after his tenure at Rajasthan Raj Bhavan came to an end.
In its arguments, the CBI had insisted that the accused conspired and instigated kar sevaks to demolish the disputed structure whereas the accused had pleaded that there was no evidence against them to prove their guilt. The accused also said that they were falsely implicated in the case by the then Congress-led government at the Centre due to political vendetta.
The CBI produced 351 witnesses and about 600 documentary pieces of evidence to prove the guilt of accused.