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Special Court records statement of witness via videoconferencing in Babri Masjid case

Special Court records statement of witness via videoconferencing in Babri Masjid case 2

In a first, the special CBI court in Lucknow conducting the Babri Masjid demolition case trial has recorded the statement of a witness via videoconferencing.

The special CBI judge went to an adjoining court complex to conduct the cross-examination of the prosecution witness as, despite repeated reminders, the Uttar Pradesh administration has yet to install videoconferencing equipment in his court.

The cross examination of Farhad Abbas was held last week. Abbas, a resident of the Ambedkar Nagar district in the Ayodhya division, was connected via video with the defence counsels and CBI judge in Lucknow.

The cross-examination of two more witnesses sought by the defence counsels is yet to be completed. While one of the two witnesses, 71-year-old Madhurima Misra, has cited old age and a “vulnerable disease” for her inability to appear in the court, the third, Jagat Bahadur, has sought to be cross-examined after Eid.

Meanwhile, the court has directed CBI to explore questioning of all the 32 accused via videoconferencing, keeping in view the probable unavailability and health issues of the high-profile accused. Top BJP leaders including LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, as well as VHP leader Champat Rai Bansal are among the accused in the case.

Despite directions and reminders by the court to the UP administration to immediately provide the equipment to conduct day-to-day trial in the case over video link, it has yet to be installed, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

“The court has made it clear that it will not delay the proceedings of the trial on account of any reason …This is to ensure that the verdict is pronounced by August 31, the deadline fixed by the Supreme Court,” said a senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

On May 14, while directing the UP chief secretaries for administration and justice to install the equipment, the court had mentioned that it would be inconvenient for the court to use an existing videoconferencing room available in the adjoining court complex. The special CBI judge, SK Yadav, had said that facility was being utilised by other lower courts for summoning accused on remand via videoconferencing and for other judicial purposes.

However, the CBI court still used the room for the cross-examination last week. The case is now slated to come up on May 26.

The Supreme Court on May 8 ordered that the trial be concluded and verdict pronounced by August 31, and the special CBI court doesn’t want to fall in contempt of the directions. The special CBI court is located in the Kaiserbagh locality of Lucknow, which is a Covid-19 hotspot as per available information.

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