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23 Mar 2017

Eyes glued to CBI in Babri case

R. Balaji, TT, New Delhi, March 22: The CBI is expected to stick to the stand it had taken under the UPA government and seek the revival of criminal charges against L.K. Advani and 12 others in the Babri Masjid demolition case appeal when it comes up before the Supreme Court tomorrow.
"There will be no change in our stand that was taken in 2011. We will press for the revival of the charges," a source in the government's legal department said.
Justice R.F. Nariman, who had refused to accept the discharge of the conspiracy charge on technical grounds earlier but did not figure on the bench today, will resume hearing the case tomorrow along with Justice P.C. Ghose.
The court is looking into the CBI's appeal against an Allahabad High Court order discharging the prominent BJP leaders.
Today, the matter could not be taken up as Justice Ghose, who was sitting with Justice Deepak Gupta, adjourned it to Thursday.
"My brother judge (Justice Nariman) is not there today. This composition (meaning Justices Ghose and Deepak Gupta bench) will change. Tomorrow, Justice Nariman would be there," Justice Ghose told additional-solicitor general Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who is appearing for the CBI.
Justice Nariman was sitting today in Court No. 13 along with Justice P.C. Pant.
The Telegraph had reported on Wednesday that Justice Nariman was not part of the bench that was to take up the demolition case as the matter was listed before a bench of Justices Ghose and Gupta.
Today, Justice Ghose did not agree to a plea by Advani's senior counsel K.K. Venugopal that the matter be adjourned by four weeks. Venugopal had cited some prior commitments for seeking the adjournment.
Whichever stand the CBI takes on the appeal, it will draw intense political interest.
If the CBI presses for the revival of conspiracy charges against Advani and others - as the legal department sources said today - it would mark a turning point and set up another test.
Till now, the central agency had studiously avoided filing an appeal against the discharge of BJP president Amit Shah in a case dealing with the killing of a gangster, Sohrabuddin Sheik, in an alleged encounter.
In December 2014, a special court in Mumbai had discharged Shah in the case in which the CBI had charged the BJP leader with running an extortion racket with top Gujarat police officers.
Even after more than 27 months after the discharge, the CBI is yet to file an appeal in the high court,
If the CBI now persists with the appeal against Advani and the others who were discharged in 2011, it is expected to raise questions why the agency is not doing so in the Shah case. With the relationship between Advani and the current BJP leadership remaining frosty, any sign of double standard is certain to fuel a controversy.
If the CBI chooses to withdraw the appeal, it will run into fresh charges of being puppet on a political string.
The appeal has come up at a time Advani's name is among those being talked about as one of the probables for President when Pranab Mukherjee demits office on July 25.

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