Lucknow: Senior BJP leaders L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti and nine others were on Tuesday charged with criminal conspiracy in the 1992 Babri mosque demolition case by a special CBI court.
The charges were framed against Advani (89), Joshi (83), Bharti (58), BJP MP Vinay Katiyar (62), VHP’s Vishnu Hari Dalmiya (89) and one-time Hindutva firebrand Sadhvi Rithambara (53) — all of whom appeared before the court.
All six were granted bail by CBI special judge S K Yadav on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each. The CBI had opposed their bail plea.
The court adjourned the hearing of the case until Wednesday.
The accused, who spent nearly three hours in the court, had sought discharge for the offence of criminal conspiracy, which the judge rejected.
The charge of conspiracy is in addition to the existing charges against them for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.
The serious charge of criminal conspiracy was restored against them by the Supreme Court which on April 19 had directed clubbing two cases relating to the demolition. The court had also directed that the trial be concluded in two years.
Besides the six, conspiracy charges have been framed against Ramvilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Nritya Gopaldas, Dharam Das and Satish Pradhan — all of whom were allegedly present when the 16th-century structure in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992.
Judge Yadav passed two orders — one for grant of bail and the other for framing of charges.
The accused are also facing charges of having made assertions prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship.
The other charges against them include indulging in deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings, uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.
The maximum punishment in such a case would be five years in jail or a fine or both, according to a lawyer who attended the proceedings in the court.
The accused had argued against the framing of charges against them, asserting that they had no role in the razing of the mosque.
Advocate Saurav Shamsheri, appearing for Advani and the others, said they would hold consultations with their team of lawyers and decide whether there was a need to challenge the rejection of the discharge applications.
The accused were asked to appear before the court for framing of charges in the light of the Supreme Court order last month.
After Advani, Joshi and Bharti failed to turn up in court on May 25 and 26, the special court had said that no further application for an adjournment or exemption from personal appearance would be entertained. The court had on May 26 fixed the hearing for Tuesday.
Before reaching the court, Advani met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at the VVIP guest house here.
The Supreme Court had called the destruction of the mosque a “crime” which shook the “secular fabric of the Constitution” while allowing the CBI’s plea seeking restoration of the criminal conspiracy charge against Advani and the others.
However, the top court had said BJP leader and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the structure was razed, was entitled to immunity under the Constitution as long as he held the gubernatorial office.
The CBI had chargesheeted 21 people in the case. Many of them — including Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and the VHP’s Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal, Paramhans Ram Chandra Das and Mahant Avaidhynath — have since died.
They were all named in an FIR for allegedly instigating a mob which led to the demolition of the structure. The
conspiracy charge against the accused was dropped in 2001 against Advani and the others by a CBI court and its verdict was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2010.
Hindutva leader Vedanti claimed earlier today that he was among those who had pulled down the disputed structure in Ayodhya.
“I was one of those who had pulled the dome down,” Vedanti told reporters ahead of his appearance in the special court.