NEW DELHI April 20: In a serious setback to BJP veterans, the Supreme Court resurrected criminal conspiracy charges against L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and others in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition case and set a two-year deadline for conclusion of trial, Times of India reported.
Adopting a tough 'let justice be done though the heavens fall' line in the appeal filed by the CBI in the politically sensitive case, a bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman on Wednesday invoked the power vested in it under Article 142 of the Constitution to transfer the trial against the BJP leaders from Rae Bareli to Lucknow.
This means two trials — conspiracy charges against Sangh leaders and a case dealing with the demolition of Babri Masjid — will proceed simultaneously.
The court ordered charges to be framed in four weeks, day-to-day trial and fixed a two-year deadline for the Lucknow court to pronounce judgment in both cases.
It also said there would be no de novo (fresh) trial and that matters would proceed from the stage where they have reached. Frowning at frequent transfers of trial judges assigned to the case, the SC said the trial judge would not be moved and directed the CBI to ensure presence of witnesses.
Quashing a May 2010 judgment of the Allahabad high court that absolved senior BJP leaders of the criminal conspiracy charge, the bench said,
"The court of sessions (in Lucknow) will frame within four weeks an additional charge under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) against Advani, Joshi, Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, Sadhvi Rithambara, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamandaleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma alias Prem and Dr Satish Chandra Nagar." Some of the accused are dead.