Babri Masjid demolition case: A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court today delivered its verdict in the nearly three-decade-old Babri Masjid demolition case. BJP leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Uma Bharti, and former chief minister Kalyan Singh along with 28 other accused have been acquitted by CBI special judge Surendra Kumar Yadav. The Special CBI Court observed that the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition was not pre-planned.

Key accused and senior leaders LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti have been acquitted in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

Ahead of the hearing, security was tightened in the court premises in Lucknow and no one was allowed inside the courtroom except the defense and CBI lawyers, and the accused persons.

The key accused include former deputy prime minister LK Advani, former Union ministers MM Joshi and Uma Bharti, and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh. Most of the senior leaders among the 32 accused such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were not present in the Lucknow court but marked their presence via video conference.

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The 32 accused face charges under several sections of the IPC, including criminal conspiracy, rioting, promoting enmity between different groups, and unlawful assembly. During the trial, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the CBI court. The court had initially framed charges against 49 accused; 17 accused have died.

The 1992 demolition, when thousands of Hindu activists tore down the mosque on December 6, was preceded by a series of rath yatras by the BJP’s LK Advani.

Mr. Advani, 92, Murli Manohar Joshi, 86, Uma Bharti, and Kalyan Singh were not present in court but joined via video link.

Mr. Advani, Mr. Joshi, Uma Bharti, and Kalyan Singh are among the 32 surviving accused in the case; they were charged with criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity.

Mr. Advani, Mr. Joshi, and Uma Bharti were allegedly on the dais near the mosque at the time of the mosque demolition. The investigating agencies said they instigated the crowd with their speeches.

Kalyan Singh was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the demolition. His government was dismissed as riots broke out across the country, in which around 3,000 people died.

Former Union minister Uma Bharti, who is admitted to a hospital in Uttarakhand after contracting COVID-19, has written to BJP chief JP Nadda, saying she will not seek bail if she is convicted in the case.

Mr. Advani had recorded his statement before the special CBI court through video conference on July 24. He was asked 100 questions by the special judge. Mr. Joshi recorded his statement a day before Mr. Advani. Both denied all charges against them.

Over the last 28 years, the case has taken a tortuous route. From the initial two cases filed in 1992, the number of cases expanded to 49. The second case, FIR no 198, had named Mr. Advani, Mr. Joshi, and Uma Bharti, accusing them of promoting religious enmity and provoking rioting.

In 1993, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a single, consolidated charge sheet against 48 people, among whom Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray and Kalyan Singh were also included.

The cases against Mr. Advani, Mr. Joshi, and Uma Bharti moved from Lalitpur to Rae Bareli to Lucknow after an order by the Supreme Court, which also asked that the criminal conspiracy charges be restored against them.

The 16th-century mosque was pulled down by thousands of “Kar Sevaks” who believed it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple that marked the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. In a landmark verdict in November, the Supreme Court ordered the construction of a temple at the site. The groundbreaking ceremony took place earlier this year in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated.

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