New Delhi (ILNS): While the Ayodhya title dispute issue was settled by the Supreme Court in November 2019, the criminal case against some BJP, RSS, VHP leaders and kar sevaks for demolishing the mosque on December 6, 1992 is now in its final stages.
Exactly 10,160 days after the Babri Masjid demolition, a special CBI court in Lucknow pronounced its verdict in the criminal case today.
On July 19, 2019, the apex court extended the tenure of the special judge hearing the demolition case. The court said that the extension of tenure of the special judge, who was set to retire on September 30, would only be for the purpose of concluding the trial and for delivering a verdict in the case. The apex court also asked the judge to deliver a verdict within nine months.
Here we track the case from 1528 to 2020:
1528– Babri Masjid, also called Mosque of Baburor Baburi Mosque, formerly Masjid-i Janmasthan, mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India.According to inscriptions on the site, it was built in the year 935 of the Islamic calendar (September 1528–September 1529 ce) by Mir Baqi, possibly a bey (a minor ruler or governor) serving under the Mughal emperor Babur.
1949 – Lord Ram’s idol was secretively placed inside the mosque.
1950: Gopal Simla Visharad files first suit in Faizabad civil court for rights to perform pooja to Ram Lalla.
1950: Paramahansa Ramachandra Das files a suit for continuation of pooja and keeping idols in the structure.
1959: Nirmohi Akhara files the third suit, seeking direction to hand over charge of the disputed site. UP Sunni Central Wakf Board files the fourth suit in 1961 for declaration and possession and fifth in 1989 in the name of Ram Lalla.
1984 – Rise of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, as the movement to build Ram temple gathered pace. Here LK Advani came into picture as a mass leader.
1986 – The district judge in Faizabad orders for the gates of the disputed structure to be opened so that Hindus can enter and pray. Hindus allowed to enter and pray in front of the idol.
1989: The four suits pending were transferred to the High Court.
1990- First attempt by VHP to demolish Babri foiled by Janta Dal Government in Uttar Pradesh. BJP President LK Advani conducts a rath yatra across the country in a bid to garner support from the people to build a Ram Temple at the disputed site. This was also the year when VHP volunteers partially damaged the Babri Masjid. Mulayam Singh Yadav was the chief minister of UP with a Janata Dal government was at the centre.
On 30 October 1990, Yadav ordered the police to open fire at the Hindutva mob which was marching towards Babri Masjid, which led to the death of 16 kar sevaks, according to the government.
1992 – Babri Masjid demolished by Karsevaks-
- 2 FIR’s registered
- FIR 197 against Karsevaks for demolition.
- FIR 198 against leader like Advani, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti for instigating.
- Congress Govt at the centre headed by PV Narasimha Rao had set up a commission headed by Justice Liberhan called Liberhan commission appointed to probe events leading to demolition. With 48 extensions and with over Rs 8 crore spent on the commission, the report was only submitted over a decade and a half later. More on that in year 2009.
1993: Trial moved to UP’s Lalitpur district.
- FIR 197 against Karsevaks was moved to Lucknow.
- FIR 198 against BJP, RSS and VHP leaders was moved to Rae Bareily
On 5 October 1993 the CBI filed a consolidated charge sheet, including for FIR 198, as the two cases were intrinsically related. More accused persons were named in this charge sheet, including Bala Saheb Thackeray, Kalyan Singh, Champat Rai Bansal, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das and others.
The conspiracy angle presented by the CBI spoke of a secret meeting at the residence of Bajrang Dal leader Vinay Katiyar one day before the masjid was pulled down, “wherein a final decision to demolish the disputed structure was taken.” In this meeting, according to the charge sheet, Advani and the seven other leaders were present.
In the same charge sheet, when it came to the angle of conspiracy, it read:
The acts of Bala Saheb Thackeray, LK Advani, Kalyan Singh, Ashok Singhal (General Secretary, VHP) Vinay Katiyar, (MP Bajrang Dal), Uma Bharati, Shri Murli Manohar Joshi, Ex-President and others constitutes offences U/s 120-B IPC r/w 153-A, 153-B, 295, 295-A and 505 IPC and substantive offences U/s 153-A, 153-B, 295, 295-A and 505 IPC.
October 8, 1993 – CBI files Charge sheet for FIR 197 and 198 together; the UP government issues a new notification for transfer of the cases, clubbing FIR 198 against the original eight leaders, with the rest of the cases. This was supposed to mean that all the cases relating to the demolition of the Babri Masjid would be tried by the special court in Lucknow.
1994: Case goes back to Lucknow Bench of HC, suits heard again from 1996.
Oct 24, 1994: SC says in historic Ismail Faruqui case that mosque was not integral to Islam.
1997: In 1997 a Lucknow magistrate ordered the framing of charges (including criminal conspiracy) against the 48 accused. But 34 of them moved the Allahabad High Court appealing for revision, and were granted a stay.
- For four years, nothing moved, because of the high court’s stay order.
May 4, 2001: Special Judge S.K. Shukla drops conspiracy charge against 13 accused, including Mr. Advani and Kalyan Singh. Bifurcates Crimes 197 and 198.
2009 – Liberhan Commission submits report.
The Liberhan Commission took 17 years after its formation to submit its 900 page report. That report placed individual culpability for the demolition on 68 persons, the bulk of them drawn from the extended Parivar clan comprising the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the BJP. The accused from the BJP included Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manhohar Joshi. However, also included was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. According to Justice Liberhan:
It cannot be assumed even for a moment that L.K. Advani, A.B. Vajpayee or M.M. Joshi did not know the designs of the Sangh Parivar. Even though these leaders were deemed and used by the Parivar… to reassure the cautious masses, they were [in fact] party to the decisions which had been taken.
May 20, 2010: Advani, others absolved of conspiracy charges
Allahabad HC upholds May 4, 2001 special court order, dismisses the CBI’s revision petition for a direction to proceed with the conspiracy charge against Mr. Advani and others.
September 30, 2010: Allahabad HC awards two-thirds of Ayodhya site to Hindu parties, one-third to Waqf Board.
February, 2011: CBI moves Supreme Court. Argues that “the actual demolition of the Babri Masjid and the continuous assault on media persons form a single connected transaction and can well be a concerted conspiracy.”
May 9, 2011: Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya dispute.
December 25, 2014: Oldest litigant in Babri Masjid case passes away. Mohammad Farooq, a resident of Ayodhya, was one of the seven main litigants from the Muslim side in the 1950 Babri Masjid case.
March 6, 2017: SC indicates it may revive conspiracy charge and order a joint trial of crimes 197 and 198.
March 21, 2017: Suggesting an out-of-court rapprochement among rival parties in the 68-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute , Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar advised peace negotiations instead of a pitched court battle, even offering help to settle the fight amicably.
March 23, 2017: A Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton Nariman posted for detailed hearing the CBI appeal against the dropping of the criminal conspiracy charge against veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani and other top party leaders after two weeks.
April 6, 2017: The Supreme Court indicated that it will use its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to transfer the Babri Masjid demolition related trial in Rae Bareilly against top BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to Lucknow, where a CBI court is hearing conspiracy and other serious criminal charges against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” for the actual act of razing down the 15th century mosque.
May 30, 2017: L.K. Advani Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar charged with criminal conspiracy in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
February 8, 2018: The Supreme Court conveys its clinical approach to the 70-year-old dispute, exhorting the parties on either side of the fence to treat it merely as a “land issue”.
March 23, 2018: Almost 24 years after the Supreme Court said a mosque has no “unique or special status” and is not an essential part of the practice of Islam and namaz, Muslim parties involved in the Ramjanmabhoomi title dispute wants the apex court to first re-consider its stand before going ahead with the hearing in the Babri Masjid case. In 1994, the Supreme Court observed that “Muslims can offer prayer anywhere, even in open”.
September 27, 2018: A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion of 2:1, declines to refer the question if a “mosque as a place of prayer is an essential part of Islam” in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid appeals to a seven-judge Bench.
March 8, 2019: Supreme Court sends Ayodhya dispute for mediation in camera, appoints a panel of mediators, comprising former Supreme Court judge F.M.I. Kalifulla as chairman, Art of Living founder Sri Ravi Shankar, and Sriram Panchu, a senior advocate with experience in alternative dispute resolution.
August 6, 2019: Constitution Bench begins hearing the cross-appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim sides challenging the three-way partition of the disputed 2.77 acres of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land among Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waqf Board; Nirmohi Akhara lays claim to Ram Janmabhoomi.
August 8, 2019: Can birthplace be considered a ‘juristic person?’ asks Supreme Court.
September 3, 2019: Installation of idols inside Babri Masjid in the intervening night of December 22-23 of 1949, which marked the beginning of heightened tensions and legal battle, was a “surreptitious attack”, Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan claims.
September 4, 2019: Hindus and Muslims “alike used to worship in the mosque-temple,” Rajeev Dhavan tells Supreme Court.
September 6, 2019: CJI to hear plea for live-streaming of Ayodhya title dispute case.
September 24, 2019: The Muslim side in the title dispute case says Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya and accepts that Ram Chabutra (a platform) is his exact birth spot.
November 9, 2019: Temple at disputed site, alternative land for mosque, rules Supreme Court; Centre told to formulate a scheme within three months and set up a trust to manage the property and construct a temple.
Supreme Court’s 2019 judgment on title dispute:
- While the landmark apex court decision of 9 November 2019 put the Ayodhya title dispute to rest by ordering the land to be handed over to the Hindus, and the setting up of a trust to construct the temple there, the five-judge bench had this to say about the demolition of the Babri Masjid: “The destruction of the mosque took place in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance 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.
- This judgment does not in itself affect the criminal trial as it was a separate civil matter, but is nonetheless the first formal judicial pronouncement about the illegality of the demolition itself, said the court.
- Further, the prosecution has said in its final arguments that since the demolition is an act of violation, the accused who conspired must be punished, while the defence has cited the SC’s final comments that the land belongs to the Hindu claimants.
- August 5, 2020: Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays the foundation stone of the new Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The bhoomi pujan was also done amid Covid distancing and huge security.