30 Sep 2020 4:10 PM GMT
A Special CBI Court at Lucknow on Wednesday (30th September) acquitted all 32 persons accused of hatching the criminal conspiracy behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque on December 6, 1992.The acquitted persons include prominent BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh etc.Special CBI Judge S K Yadav, in his 2300-page verdict written in Hindi, held that...
A Special CBI Court at Lucknow on Wednesday (30th September) acquitted all 32 persons accused of hatching the criminal conspiracy behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque on December 6, 1992.
The acquitted persons include prominent BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh etc.
Special CBI Judge S K Yadav, in his 2300-page verdict written in Hindi, held that the demolition of the mosque was not premeditated and that there was no criminal conspiracy behind it.
The Court said that the demolition was not pre-planned.
"Those who climbed on the dome, they are anti-social elements", the Court stated.
The Court further observed that such a group of people could be called anarchist and they could certainly not be called Ram-Bhakhts (Devotees of Lord Rama) as they were bent on to demolish the disputed structure and that the Supreme Court had made the aforesaid observation ("…The destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law") in the context of these people only.
To prove the case against the accused persons, the Central Bureau of Investigation produced several eye-witnesses as well as newspapers/magazines, their cuttings, Video cassettes/ tapes and photographers, search memo/production memo and medical evidence.
CBI argued before the Court that the Apex Court in the Case of M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs vs Mahant Suresh Das & Ors has held that,
On 6 December 1992, the structure of the mosque was brought down and the mosque was destroyed. The destruction of the mosque took place in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance is given to this Court. The destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law.
The Special Court acknowledged the fact that the Apex Court had indeed said so; however, the Court was of the view that the jurisdiction of the CBI special Court was limited, and that the Court was on the question of - whether the CBI has been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt as per the evidence available on record or not?
Charges of Criminal Conspiracy
The Court after perusing the pieces of evidence (Oral Evidence of Witnesses, Newspaper Cuttings, Magazines, Videocassettes, Printed speeches obtained from tape recorders, Photographs and the evidence of people present at the site in question) produced by the CBI, expressed its final view that there was never any event/occasion wherein the accused persons sat together and planned to demolish the mosque in question (Babri Masjid).
It may be noted that the CBI had produced several news items published in Newspapers and Magazines related to the Public meetings, Press conferences and Jan-sabhas attended/addressed by the accused persons between 01-10-1990 and May, 1993, to prove that they had indeed hatched a Criminal Conspiracy to demolish the Mosque in question.
In response to this, the Court noted that the news items published in Newspapers and Magazines, come under the purview of hearsay evidence and therefore, such a piece of evidence cannot be relied upon by the Court independently unless supported by other robust pieces of evidence.
The Court specifically noted that news items are edited by the editors (of Newspapers and Magazines) and as such, the statements of the accused persons published in such newspapers and magazines cannot be held to be confessional statements of the accused persons.
In the same manner, the court discarded the videotapes, cassettes produced by the CBI.
In relation to the photographs produced before the court, the Court was of the view that the negatives of such photographs were not produced before the Court and such pictures didn't contain the signatures of the people who took those photographs.
Coming to the reliability factor of the witnesses (who were present at the site in the question at the relevant point of time) in this specific case, the Court observed that such people (Government service holders/common people), when produced for examination by the CBI in the Court, their statements recorded before the Court and their Statements recorded under Section 161 of CrPC, were quite contrary to each other and thus, they were unreliable.
The Court was also of the view that none of the witnesses took the name of the accused persons explicitly that they were in fact, involved in grounding the mosque. Also, the Court observed that on that fateful day (06th December 1992), lakhs of karsewaks were present and heavy dust was blowing (indicating that it was not possible to give a clear account as to what happened on that day).
The Court opined that it is a fact that the disputed structure was at least 200-300 meters away from Ram Katha Kunj, however, some witnesses even said that the said distance was 800 meters.
In such circumstances, the Court opined, it could not be concluded with utmost accuracy that the accused persons or few of them would have signalled the Karsewaks to demolish the structure and it was highly improbable that eye-witnesses would have seen such things happening at the disputed site.
The CBI argued that the accused persons could be charged for hatching the criminal conspiracy (to demolish mosque) by taking into consideration the Circumstantial pieces of evidence available in this case.
To this, the Court said that when the documentary evidence produced by the prosecution itself is not reliable, how can the charge of criminal conspiracy against the accused persons be based on it?
The Court observed that there were several reports that explosives originated from Pakistan had reached Ayodhya via Delhi. Another intelligence report stated that about 100 persons including anti-social/anti-national elements from Udhampur area of J&K are coming to Ayodhya in the garb of Karsewaks.
In this context, the Court said that in light of these intelligence inputs, the prayer of the CBI, to charge accused of hatching a Criminal Conspiracy becomes untenable (indicating that it can't be said with utmost surety that the Mosque was grounded by whom?).
Importantly, the Court was of the view that till 12 (on 06th December 1992) everything was normal, and when Ashok Singhal told the Karsewaks as to how to do Karsewa, a group of Karsewaks got enraged and suddenly stone pelting started from behind the disputed structure, and some people broke the barricading and few of them climbed the mosque and demolished it with axes and hammers.
The Court observed that Ashok Singhal tried to calm them down (who were from the group of those Karsewaks and had climbed/progressing towards the mosque to demolish it) and asked them to come back but they got violent and attacked him as well.
Importantly, the Court accepted that it has been proved by the evidence produced before it, that the volunteers of the RSS and Viswa Hindu Parishad were managing the situation/people and they were continuously giving directions.
This goes on to prove, the Court opined, that there was no plan of the accused persons to demolish the disputed structure on 06th December 1992.
Interestingly, the Court has observed that the Karsewaks who created hindrance/disturbance, formed the part of another group of Karsewaks (different from the rest of the Karsewaks) and in fact, they were the ones who were riotous and created all the ruckus.
The Court further noted that the meeting of mind (as is necessary to prove the charge of Criminal Conspiracy) didn't take place between the accused persons and these people (who, according to the Court, formed a separate group of Karsewaks and were involved in the demolition of the mosque) and so the accused persons can't be convicted under Section 120-B of IPC.
Charges against Accused of forming an unlawful assembly
The Court observed that a Karsewa-event was organized on 6th December 1992, wherein around 5 Lakhs Karsewaks were present.
Notably, the Supreme Court had appointed Muradabad, District Judge Shree Tez Shankar Singh to manage things and under his guidance, the Karsewa was being observed/done.
The Court reiterated the fact that it was normal affairs till 12 pm, however, suddenly a group of Karsewaks got unruly and started getting violent and they even attacked Ashok Singhal and so it cannot be concluded that any Common Object was being shared between the group of unruly Karsewaks and the named accused persons.
The Court also noted that several leaders were sitting on the podium and Ashok Singhal and Vijaya Raje Sindhiya, who were present near the Ram Chabutra didn't even imagine that a group of Karsewaks would suddenly get angry and they would start demolishing the disputed structure.
The Court further observed that no evidence has been produced on record to show as to what was the role of the accused persons in the demolition activity, taken up by the group of unruly Karsewaks.
The Court, while relying on the case of Baladin And Ors. vs State Of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1956 SC 181, concluded that if a person is a part of a group, that fact alone is not sufficient to show that that person was a member of the unlawful assembly, it has to be shown as to what was (and if any) the role of that person in that assembly to achieve the common object of that unlawful assembly/group?
The Court noted that the accused persons, in this case, had no clue that the group of unruly Karsewaks had suddenly turned into an unlawful assembly and so, it can't be said that the accused persons were playing any role in achieving the common object of the Unlawful Assembly.
In this context, the Court lastly noted that the accused persons can't be convicted under Sections 147 and 149 of IPC.
Charges under 153A (1), 153B (1), 505 (2) IPC
The Court was of the view that to prove charges under 153-A (1), it has to be shown that the accused persons promoted enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and acted in a manner which is prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
And to prove charges under 153-B(1), Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration has to be produced.
The Court noted that it has to be seen as to which statement, word, or speech was used by the accused persons which could have promoted enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or which could have been prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony.
In the present case, the Court noted that the prosecution produced oral evidence and video cassettes and typed document of the tape recordings, but on 06th of December 1992, the recordings of the speeches of the accused persons (if any) were not produced before the Court and also the witnesses themselves accepted that the videos cassettes and typed document of the tape recordings were edited.
The Court said that merely giving provocative speeches won't attract the charges under 153A and 153B, the speeches should be against the national integrity to attract the charges under 153B (1) IPC.
The Court referred to several slogans raised by the Karsewaks (Ram lalla hum ayenge, mandir wahin banayenge; tel lagavo dabur ka, naam mitaon babar ka; Ram naam satya hai, babari masjid dhwast hai), however the court didn't find any evidence in relation to these slogans being raised by the accused persons.
The Court further cited the Judgment of apex court in the Cases of Balwant Singh And Anr vs State Of Punjab and Bilal Ahmed Kaloo vs State Of Andhra Pradesh and said that some slogans might be provocative in nature, however, the accused persons can't be held guilty on the basis of the fact that such slogans were being raised by them.
Lastly, the Court said that there was no ground to charge the accused persons of the crime under 153A(1) and 153B(1) and 505 (2) of IPC.
Charges under 295 and 295A IPC
CBI argued before the court that the accused person had insulted the religious sentiments of the Muslim Community.
To this, the Court said that material on record shows that since 1986, the Hindus are worshipping in the disputed structure and in 1949 the Hindus were allowed to place the idol at the site in question.
The Court, relying on the judgment of Apex Court in the Case of M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs vs Mahant Suresh Das & Ors, concluded that it has been held by the Top Court that the Hindus have the right over the disputed structure and the ownership of the said site has been handed over to the Hindus.
The Chief investigator in the case (PW 294) submitted before the court that it can't be said that due to the speech of the accused person, someone got provoked and thereby demolished the said structure.
The Court didn't find any material against the accused person to charge them under the aforesaid sections of IPC.
In relation to the charge of dacoity, the Chief Investigator (PW 294) accepted that he didn't find any evidence in relation to the alleged fact that Ashok Singhal, Vinay Katiyar or other leaders had looted or snatched away any property/object.
Offences under 332 and 338
The Court was of the view that just because Ashok Singhal was continuously giving directions to control the crowd, it can't be said that he prevented any public servant from doing his duties or he caused any grievous hurt by doing an act endangering life or personal safety of others.
Charges against L K Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Acharya Dharmendra Dev
The Court observed that it has been alleged by the prosecution that they (L K Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Acharya Dharmendra Dev) were present on the Podium.
It was also alleged that they raised slogans while being on the Podium; however, the Court said that no specimen of their voices were taken and produced before the Court along with the recording of them raising the said slogans.
In the context of Maharaj Swami Skshi, the Court noted that he gave an interview to a newspaper which was published and based on that only, he was arraigned as an accused in this matter.
Charges against Kalyan Singh, the then Chief Minister of UP
Kalyan Singh was charged under Sections 120-B, 153A r/w 120-B, 153B r/w 120-B, 505 r/w 120-B, 295 r/w 120-B and 295A r/w 120-B.
The Court noted that he was not present at the disputed site and it was alleged that he, being the Chief Minister of the State, didn't use the 150 Company Para Military forces (posted by Central Government for the security and protection of the disputed structure).
It was also alleged that due to his inaction, the Mosque was demolished. The Court noted that the Apex Court had stated in a 1992 Judgment that Kalyan Singh in pursuance of a Criminal Conspiracy didn't protect the disputed site.
However, the CBI Court in an interesting way stated in its Judgment, "It is to be seen as to what evidences have been produced by CBI against him"
The Court examined various Journalists (who either interviews him during that period or attended his rallies in around that period) but nothing came out against Kalyan Singh in the opinion of the Court.
In relation to the allegations of poor bandobast of the disputed site, the Court, after examining several police officers, noted that the security of the disputed site was 3 tiered and teams of CRPF, PAC and UP police were present inside and outside the disputed site.
However, the Court noted, because of the presence of a large number of Karsewaks, the mob present there became unruly.
The Court examined the material on record and thereby concluded that the use of CRPF force was ordered however, the forces couldn't reach Ayodhya (from Faizabad) as the way connecting Faizabad to Ayodhya was jam-packed because of the presence of a large number of Karsewaks on the road.
It also came on record that if bullets would have been fired, it would have led to genocide and many innocent people could have died.
Kalyan Singh, in his 313 CrPC statement said that there was full proof security arrangement, and regular instructions were also given to higher officials. He further alleged that he was innocent and that charges against him were not true.
The Court further noted that the incident occurred suddenly and without any provocation and that the accused persons themselves did not expect that such an incident would happen.
The Court said that no material has been placed on record to prove that Kalyan Singh was involved in any criminal conspiracy or that he did an act to hurt the sentiments of the people of another religion.
Many of the prosecution witnesses also confirmed that there was nothing to show that Kalyan Singh insulted the religious sentiment of any person or destroyed, damaged or desecrated any place of worship or anything considered sacred by any class of persons.
The Court noted that it was also clear from the perusal of the documents that several prosecution witnesses have clearly stated that the security arrangements at the disputed site were adequate.
The security of the disputed structure was three-tier. Necessary instructions were given by the District Officer.
Most importantly, Priyambada Nath Shukla stated in his statement that he was posted as the station head Ramjanmabhoomi at the time of the incident and used to attend every security-related meeting as the disputed structure was under his jurisdiction.
Click here to download the trial court judgment