New Delhi: Acquitting all the 32 accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, a special CBI court in Lucknow Wednesday blamed a group of “lawless” kar sevaks (volunteers), “who got agitated suddenly”.
Judge S.K. Yadav noted the case didn’t prove that the demolition had been planned ahead, but instead it happened all of a sudden.
Among the 32 accused on trial were former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, former Uttar Pradesh CM Kalyan Singh, and BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Sakshi Maharaj.
They had been charged under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153A (promoting enmity between two groups on grounds of religion), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 505 (statements conducing public mischief) and 147 (rioting) of the Indian Penal Code.
Acquitting all the accused, the court observed: “… no action is found to be done by the accused to hurt the sentiments of followers of Islam on the basis of the evidence available on record.”
The judgment was pronounced nearly 28 years after the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished by a mob of kar sevaks on 6 December 1992. The trial in the case had begun nearly 18 years after the incident, and even then, it proceeded at a snail’s pace, leading to the Supreme Court ordering day-to-day hearings on 19 April 2017, and guaranteeing that judge Yadav would not be transferred.
In its verdict, the court said: “There was a different group of disrupting kar sevaks, who were definitely riotous”, adding that they would’ve have listened if they had faith in Lord Ram, because VHP’s Ashok Singhal tried telling them that the disputed structure is also a temple and it has to be protected, and that the sanctum sanctorum had an idol of Ram Lalla.
“Such kar sevaks cannot be Ram bhakts because the crowd of these lawless kar sevaks demolished the disputed structure, impacting communal harmony in various parts of the country,” it observed.
The court noted that one of the witnesses had spoken about sloganeering by Ramchandra Paramhans and Uma Bharti.
It, however, observed, “There is no evidence of how someone’s feelings were disturbed by this slogan or that the kar sevaks were agitated with these slogans. Rather, almost all the witnesses have admitted that there was so much noise at the scene that nobody could be heard.”
The court also took note of allegations of raising slogans such as “Ram lalla hum aaye, mandir wahin banayenge, tel lagavein dabar ka, naam mitavein babar ka”.
It, however, opined, “… there were lakhs of kar sevaks present in the disputed premises. They were raising such slogans. As far as the question of sloganeering by accused persons is concerned, no recording etc. along with their voice samples has been submitted as evidence in the court.”
Judge Yadav said that the CBI had not presented any evidence to prove any instance where the accused “sat in a room and planned to demolish the disputed structure”.
‘RSS, VHP were handling the situation’
The court noted that everything was normal until 12 noon on 6 December 1992 and that the evidence suggested that volunteers of the RSS and the Vishva Hindu Parishad were handling the situation.
“There were seating and parking arrangements made for women, senior citizens, media persons. This indicates the fact that the accused persons had no prior planning to demolish the disputed structure,” it observed.
It further said that there was no evidence to suggest that the accused had colluded with the “lawless kar sevaks” to demolish the disputed structure in furtherance of a common intention.
The court cited a 1995 judgment of the Supreme Court which said that “mere presence in an assembly does not make such a person a member of an unlawful assembly unless it is shown that he had done something or omitted to do something which would make him a member of an unlawful assembly”.
Judge Yadav then ruled that the accused were not a part of the unlawful assembly, observing, “… the leaders seated on the stage and Ashok Singhal, Vijayaraje Scindia present near the Ram chabutra did not apprehend that out of the kar sevaks present there, one group will get agitated, climb on the disputed structure, and start breaking it.”
‘No evidence of affecting religious sentiments’
As for the allegations under sections 153A, 153B and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, the prosecution had presented oral evidence, video cassettes and tape recordings to support these charges.
The court, however, said that the prosecution had failed to present any recordings on the exact speeches given by the different accused on 6 December.
“In order to prove the allegations under sections 153A and 153B IPC, the prosecution will have to establish what and which speech was given by which accused to adversely affect the promotion of enmity between the two groups and the harmony between the two groups. If only provocative speeches are made by the accused, then the accused cannot be convicted on the basis of this,” it observed.
“There is no evidence that the religious sentiment of any other sect was affected by the slogans raised by the accused,” it added.
Intelligence report and the Pakistan connection
The court also took note of a local intelligence unit (LIU) report dated 2 December 1992, which blamed some Muslims for breaking and setting some tombs on fire to fuel communal tensions and disrupt the kar seva.
According to the judgment, the intelligence report said that explosives originating from Pakistan had reached Ayodhya via Delhi, and that about 100 people, including anti-social/anti-national elements from Udhampur area of Jammu and Kashmir, were coming to Ayodhya in the garb of kar sevaks.
This information, it noted, was also communicated to the principal secretary (home), UP government.
“Despite having such important information, no discussion was made on this,” the court said.
The LIU report, it said, also supported the submission made by Satish Chandra Chaubey, IG, CRPF, who blamed terrorists/ anti-social elements dressed as kar sevaks for the damage to the mosque.
Video evidence, newspaper reports rejected
As for some of the video evidence submitted by various journalists who covered the demolition, the court saw it with suspicion, noting the submissions that VHS cassettes can be edited and tampered with. It also found these cassettes to be edited.
The court further noted that none of these video cassettes and footage were sealed and nor were they sent to forensic laboratories to determine whether they had been tampered with.
The CBI had also tried to prove a conspiracy through the statements made from October 1990 to May 1993 by the accused during press conferences, public meetings etc. by relying on newspaper reports.
Judge Yadav, however, noted that these newspaper reports fall under the category of “hearsay evidence” and that they can be relied on only after being supported by other strong evidence.