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31 May 2017

Babri conspiracy charges framed - Court refuses discharge, grants bail

Yogi Adityanath greets LK Advani at the VIP guesthouse in Lucknow on Tuesday. (PTI)
Piyush Srivastava, TT, Lucknow, May 30: The special CBI court in Lucknow that is hearing a conspiracy angle to the Babri Masjid demolition case today framed charges against 11 BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders and one accused from the Shiv Sena.
Special CBI judge Suresh Kumar Yadav granted bail to six accused against personal bonds of Rs 50,000 each. They are BJP veterans L.K. Advani and M.M. Joshi, Union water resources minister Uma Bharati, BJP Rajya Sabha member Vinay Katiyar and VHP leaders Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Sadhvi Ritambhara.
The six others who have been charged - VHP leaders Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Dharam Das, Ram Vilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma and Champat Rai and Shiva Sena politician Satish Pradhan - had received bail on May 25 and 26. Those granted bail today had failed to appear before the court on those dates.
Judge Yadav today rejected applications from the 12 accused to discharge them in the case. Trial will begin tomorrow, with daily hearings, and the accused could be jailed for up to five years if convicted.
Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the accused BJP leaders were "innocent" and would come out "unscathed", while the Congress demanded Uma's resignation, a PTI report added.
Altogether 21 people had been accused of criminal conspiracy after kar sevaks demolished the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. All of them were discharged by a special CBI court in Rae Bareli in May 2001, with Allahabad High Court later upholding the decision.
Following a CBI appeal, the apex court revived the conspiracy charges on April 19 this year, transferred the trial from Rae Bareli to Lucknow, set a two-year deadline and ordered daily hearings.
Conspiracy charges had been dropped also against Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister when the mosque was demolished. The charges will be revived against him at the end of his term as Rajasthan governor, a constitutional post that now grants him immunity from the trial.
All the eight others who had been discharged are dead. They are: former Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray and former VHP leaders Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Mahant Avaidyanath, Ram Chandra Das, Jagdish Muni, Satish Nagar and Moneshwar Save.
Riots had broken out across the country after the demolition, claiming more than 2,000 lives. All the accused are said to have been present near the site, delivering speeches while the kar sevaks pulled the mosque down.
Uma said before entering the courtroom that there was no conspiracy.
"It was a mass movement in which I too was participating along with lakhs of people. It was a movement that can be compared to the one witnessed during the Emergency (of 1975-77). I don't understand how the conspiracy angle (arises)," she said.
Later, after stepping out of the court, she said: "Please understand my limitations; I cannot comment on the decisions of the court."
Vedanti, working head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas of the VHP, told reporters there was no mosque at the site in 1992.
"There were remains of a Ram temple at the spot, which I and the kar sevaks demolished. Advani and Joshi were requesting the kar sevaks to maintain peace," Vedanti said.
The accused had been put up at the government's VIP guesthouse, where chief minister Yogi Adityanath welcomed them.
The CBI court usually sits on the third floor of a government management institute but today descended to the ground floor keeping in mind the advanced age of many of the accused. A crowd of BJP and VHP supporters gathered at the gates of the complex and chanted "Jai Shri Ram".

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