How L.K. Advani went scot-free

The Rae Bareli court judgment in the Ayodhya case discharging Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is against the weight of the entire evidence and violates the law as declared by the Supreme Court.

Published : Jan 30, 2004 00:00 IST

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. - VINO JOHN

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. - VINO JOHN

THE Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister, Lal Krishna Advani’s discharge in the Ayodhya case on September 19, 2003, was no “honourable acquittal” after a full trial on the merits. It was a gross miscarriage of justice, which precludes a proper trial. A perusal of the English translation of the 130-page judgment in Hindi by Vinod Kumar Singh, Special Judicial Magistrate, Rae Bareli, reveals that the grounds for his discharge could well apply also to other accused such as Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharati. Conversely, the grounds on which charges will be framed against them apply also to Advani. The judgment is utterly unconvincing in the distinction it draws between him and the other accused, including Ashok Singhal, V.H. Dalmiya, Giriraj Kishore, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Ritambara.

The judgment is against the weight of the entire evidence and violates the law as declared by the Supreme Court. The reasoning is laboured to a degree. It must be emphasised that what the Magistrate pronounced was an order of discharge at the stage of framing the charge not an acquittal on merits after a trial. A discharge does not bar another prosecution, an acquittal does.

In the face of such a judgment the behaviour of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the prosecuting agency, was true to form. It did not move the High Court for quashing the order. The prescribed period of limitation is three months. The CBI bestirred itself ostentatiously thereafter in view of public censure. Rajnish Sharma reported in The Hindustan Times (December 31, 2003) that “CBI sources claim that the agency’s top-brass still differ on whether to move the High Court or not. Initially, it was decided that the CBI should not go in for an appeal against Advani. However, faced with mounting criticism for having failed to appeal against the lower court order, the opinion seems to have changed.

“While announcing its decision, even the Rae Bareli court had strongly criticised the agency’s role as it felt the CBI had deliberately weakened the case against Advani. Agency sources now claim that once the courts reopen, they will file a petition explaining the reasons for the delay.”

IT is necessary to recall the background in order to appreciate the judgment. The CBI had filed a charge-sheet in court against Advani and other accused, on October 5, 1993, charging them with conspiring to demolish the mosque. Two courts found that a prima facie case on this charge did exist - Special Judicial Magistrate Mahipal Sirohi on August 27, 1994, while committing the accused to the Sessions Court, and the Additional Sessions Judge, Lucknow, Jugdish Prasad Srivastava, on September 9, 1997, while framing the charges.

The Sessions Judge concluded that “in the present case a criminal conspiracy to demolish the disputed structure of Ramjanmabhoomi/Babri Masjid was hatched by the accused persons in the beginning of 1990 and was completed on 6.12.1992”. Advani and others hatched criminal conspiracies “to demolish the disputed premises on different times at different places”. A prima facie case was found to charge Bal Thackeray, Advani and others, including Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati, under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

Advani and his colleagues, Joshi and Uma Bharati, faced two charges in two courts - delivering inflammatory speeches on December 6, 1992, prior to the demolition, and hatching a conspiracy to demolish the mosque from 1990. Immediately after the mosque was demolished, two first information reports were filed in the same police station. One was filed at 5-15 p.m. against “lakhs of unknown kar sevaks” for offences committed at 12-15 p.m.; mainly the demolition. Spread of communal hate was one of them. Very properly, conspiracy was not alleged since the facts were not known then and no particular person was cited either. This was Crime No. 197 (demolition).

The next FIR, filed only 10 minutes later, was Crime No. 198 (speeches) against eight named persons - Advani, Joshi, Uma Bharati, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, V.H. Dalmiya, Vinay Katiyar and Ritambara. It alleged that they had delivered communally inflammatory speeches at 10 a.m. prior to the demolition (Section 153A IPC). This charge was common to both FIRs. FIR 198 (speeches) said also that “during the speeches of these leaders, repeated indications (sic: “incitement”) were given to demolish the mosque. As a result, lakhs of kar sevaks attacked and pulled down the disputed structure”. The leaders were named because their identities were known. Conspiracy was properly not alleged in either FIR because it requires a long probe. There were 47 other FIRs for offences against the media.

After the imposition of President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh, the demolition case (197) was assigned to the CBI while the State police dealt with the speeches case (198). Both were parts of the same transaction and were linked inseparably. Eventually, the CBI was assigned the speeches case as well. It, therefore, submitted a composite, damning charge-sheet in court on October 5, 1993. But there was a technical flaw in the assignment of the cases to courts, which was pointed out by Justice Jagdish Bhalla of the Allahabad High Court on February 12, 2001. He struck down as invalid the reference of Case 198 (speeches) to the Lucknow court from the Rae Bareli court. His judgment of February 12, 2001, upheld everything else, including the joint charge-sheet. He thrice said that the defect was “curable” by another notification after consulting the High Court. Obviously, justice required that the two cases, 197 (demolition) and 198 (speeches), be tried together in one court.

Neither the Rajnath Singh government nor the succeeding Mayawati regime had any intention of “curing the defect”. Nor has Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government now. The High Court issued a notification on September 28, 2002, assigning Case No.198 (speeches) to the Rae Bareli court. On November 29, the Supreme Court upheld it, holding that no one had a right to insist on a particular venue. It overlooked the background, the mala fides and the obvious miscarriage of justice. A review petition has been filed against this order. (vide the writer’s article, `Reprimand for delay’, Frontline, March 30, 2001).

To be precise, Justice Bhalla upheld: 1) the Sessions Judge’s order of September 9, 1997, framing the charges in Case No. 197 (demolition); 2) the validity of Vijai Verma’s appointment as Special Judge and his cognisance of all cases (save No.198); 3) the notification of the Special Court in Lucknow; 4) the CBI’s investigation; and 5) the consolidated charge-sheet of October 5, 1993. Even if the one concerning the speeches of December 6, 1992, is dropped, the conspiracy case survives.

But let alone a notification to cure the defect and ensure trial of both the connected cases in one court, in the interests of sheer justice, the course which the two cases took subsequently in different courts was, to say the least, surprising. The High Court’s ruling was set at naught by the Sessions Judge at Lucknow, Srikant Shukla, on May 4, 2001, which he had no right to do. Justice Bhalla had merely struck down the transfer of the speeches case (198) from Rae Bareli to Lucknow. Shukla went beyond it and dropped even the conspiracy charge in Case No.197(demolition) before him. The reasoning was tortuous. He confined FIR 197 (demolition) to kar sevaks alone; ignored the conspiracy charges and exonerated the leaders. They were held accountable only in FIR 198 (speeches) - which he could not try. He wrote: “Two distinct cases were registered which are different. In the first FIR were kar sevaks who pulled down the structure... and in the other FIR are conspirators/abettors who instigated the kar sevaks. This way, the State has considered both the cases different and separate and has treated them so.”

This was in flat contradiction to Justice Bhalla’s judgment. What Shukla did was to transpose the conspiracy charge, which properly belonged to the demolition case (197) which he was trying, to the speeches case (198), which he could not try. Having done so, he dropped proceedings on the conspiracy charge against the eight accused leaders who also figured in the speeches case and 13 others besides who did not. Thrown back at the Rae Bareli court like a shuttle cock, the conspiracy charge was buried there by the CBI two years later in its charge-sheet of May 30, 2003. On September 1, the apex court issued notices to Advani and other accused on a petition challenging this omission. The CBI had curiously moved the High Court on June 19, 2001, against Shukla’s order. On August 6, 2003, Justice N.K. Mehrotra ordered stay of proceedings in the Lucknow court till September 24.

But the conspiracy charge cannot vanish so easily. It covers events since 1990. Abetment by incitement occurred on December 6, 1992. Shukla’s reference to “conspirators/abettors who instigated” truncates the conspiracy charge - and drops it. The CBI’s joint charge-sheet of October 5, 1993, explicitly said: “Investigations revealed that on 5.12.1992, a secret meeting was held at the residence of Shri Vinay Katiyar which was attended by S/Shri L.K. Advani, Pawan Pandey, etc. Wherein a final decision to demolish the disputed structure was taken.” Sessions Judge J.P. Srivastava’s order of September 9, 1997 also mentioned this very date. He traced the beginning of the conspiracy to 1990, how it picked up speed in 1991 and the stages leading to its culmination with the demolition of the mosque. In each stage Advani’s role was narrated in detail. “Conspiracy is planned secretly,” he remarked. It cannot be limited to the public speeches on December 6, as Shukla did. The High Court upheld the validity of the conspiracy charge.

TWO recent disclosures support the charge. It has been revealed that on October 1, 1993, the Home Ministry itself sanctioned the CBI’s charge. It mentioned an interesting detail: “In pursuance of the criminal conspiracy”, Pramod Mahajan and Ashok Singhal met Bal Thackeray on November 21, 1992, and secured the Sena’s participation in the “kar seva”. On June 7, 2003, five of the accused alleged instigation by the leaders. R.N. Das, one of the priests at the site where the idols were placed inside the mosque before its demolition, told the media: “I was a witness in a meeting held by Advani and others... on December 5 night” - and spilled the beans. Justice Bhalla remarked: “According to the prosecution, the accused persons are either rich, influential or politically strong.” He recalled the Supreme Court’s remarks in the case of the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, S. Bangarappa: “The slow motion becomes much slower motion when politically powerful or rich and influential persons figures as accused.”

The demolition case (197) was thus put out of the way. All that the leaders faced was the speeches case (198) alone. On May 30, 2003, the CBI filed a supplementary charge-sheet in the Rae Bareli court trying the speeches case. On July 5, the CBI’s advocate, S.S. Gandhi, opened the case and cited statements by witnesses testifying to inflammatory speeches and to instigation of the kar sevaks to demolish the mosque. He said he would produce audio and videocassettes as evidence. On July 30, astonishingly, the CBI said that “the video cassettes did not show them giving any speech”. Special Judicial Magistrate Vinod Kumar Singh delivered judgment on September 19, 2003, in this case.

He begins by reproducing the FIR in case No. 198 which is revealing: “I, Sub Inspector Ganga Prasad Tewari, in-charge of the police post Ramjanmabhoomi, police station Ramjanmabhoomi, Faizabad, was engaged today, on 06.12.92, in maintenance of peace and order during the kar seva organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Checking duty near the disputed Ram Chabutara and Sheshavatar Mandir, I reached the meeting place in Ram Katha Kunj at about 10 a.m. where the Vishwa Hindu Parishad General Secretary Shri Ashok Singhal, Joint Secretary Shri Giriraj Kishore, Shri Lal Krishna Advani, Shri Murli Manohar Joshi, Shri Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and BJP M.P. from Faizabad and Bajrang Dal convenor Shri Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharati, Sadhvi Ritambara, etc. all the speakers were seated on the dais. The above mentioned speakers were inciting the kar sevaks by their incendiary speeches; their slogan was `Ek dhakkar aur do, Babri Masjid tod do,’ and destroy this khandahar (rubble) that is symbolic of the Mughal age slavery. Incited by their incendiary speeches, the kar sevaks were now and then raising slogans - “Jab katue kaate jaayenge, tab Ram Ram chillayenge; and Ramlala, hum aayenge, Mandir yahin banayenge.” The intention to destroy the mosque was again and again indicated (in) these leaders’ speeches. As a consequence, lakhs of kar sevaks broke through the barricades and destroyed the disputed structure, which has hurt the national unity seriously. The said event was seen, apart from the police and administration officials and employees, by the audience and journalists. Therefore, the report must be entertained and necessary action taken.”

The secret meeting of December 5 was followed by the speeches on December 6 which incited the demolition. The rest followed as planned. The judgment recites statements by eyewitnesses on the leaders’ speeches, before the Babri mosque was demolished, as recorded by the police under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, four video cassettes, three audio cassettes, photographs and news reports. It is well settled that at the stage of framing the charges all that the court has to consider is whether a prima facie case is made out. It is not to enter into a trial on the merits. Section 227 of CrPC says that if the Judge considers “that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused, he shall discharge the accused”, as distinct from an acquittal which can follow only after a trial on the merits of the charges.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that “even a very strong suspicion founded upon material before the Magistrate, which leads him to form a presumptive opinion as to the existence of the factual ingredients constituting the offence alleged, may justify the framing of charge”. Nor is the court bound to consider evidence produced by the accused. It has to consider whether the prosecution case, if unrebutted, establishes a case in law. That is what a prima facie case means in law.

The sole issue before the Magistrate, therefore, was whether the police statements produced before him by the prosecution established such a case. Thirty-odd such statements are reproduced in the judgment; some contradict others. The contradiction is to be resolved only in the trial proper; not while framing the charges unless, of course, the ones against the accused are manifestly untrue or absurd. In this case, they were not.

Consider the very first two statements which the judgment quotes: “Shri Ram Kripal Das, disciple of Mahant late Bharat Das, PS Ramjanmabhoomi, Faizabad, has made, in the main, the following statement under Section 161 CrPC: “On 6.12.1992 I remained near my temple the whole day. Through my door and the windows inside, sounds coming from the Ram Katha Kunj and words (like) Sheshavatar Mandir, vivadit dhancha (disputed structure) vivadit chabutara (disputed platform) can be heard. That day, a crowd of kar sevaks had started to gather since morning. The kar sevaks were raising slogans and loudly saying: today we would not stop even if some leader tries to stop us. We will demolish it today... On the Ram Katha Kunj side, leaders were making speeches one by one that a temple has to be built. There was a lot of noise. Lal Krishna Advani, Ashok Singhal, Vinay Katiyar, Murli Manohar Joshi, etc. spoke. All the leaders were making enthusiastic speeches. I had seen with my own eyes the above leaders going towards the temple. When there was a hullabaloo and they were demolishing the disputed structure, none of the leaders was preventing them. If these leaders had told the kar sevaks not to break any dome, they would have obeyed it, because they had called the kar sevaks to come here. Vinay Katiyar was much active from the very beginning and was prepared to do everything right or wrong for temple construction” (emphasis added, throughout).

Dhanpat Ram Yadav made the following statement under Section 161 CrPC: “On 6.12.92, I was on the roof of the Sita Rasoi (Sita’s kitchen) from early morning. That day I saw Vinay Katiyar, Lal Krishna Advani, Uma Bharati, etc. coming in a crowd of kar sevaks. They were making speeches that were provoking the kar sevaks, saying Mandir bana kar jaayenge, Hindu Rashtra banayenge (we will leave after building a temple and we will build a Hindu Rashtra). When the kar sevaks had climbed the domes in large numbers and were demolishing them, none of the leaders prevented anyone or told to stop. All stood silent... “ Another 10 statements were in the same vein followed by that of Chandra Kishore Mishra who said “inflamed by the very speeches of these leaders, the kar sevaks brought down the structure”. Advani was specifically mentioned by him as one of them.

The Additional Superintendent of Police, Faizabad, Anju Gupta was detailed to provide security to Advani. She saw people running towards the mosque with tools in their hands. If she could see that so, one would think, could “the leaders”. She said “Then Shri Lal Krishna Advani asked me what was happening inside the temple. I asked the control room and came to know that kar sevaks had entered it and were busy demolishing the structure; then I told him the same. I also told him that many people had got injured and were being brought near the Ram Katha Kunj for treatment. Then Advani told me: I want to go and tell them to come down. I conferred with S.P. Intelligence and Commandant of the 15th Battalion who were with Shri Murli Manohar Joshi. He said it was not proper to go into the crowd as these people were inflamed. Shri Advani talked to his comrades and told me that he won’t go but somebody would have to be taken there. Then I sent Uma Bharati and two others there. The crowd surrounded my jeep near Dorahi Kuwan and did not allow us to go ahead. Then Uma Bharati and we proceeded on foot. I saw after sometime that people had come down from the domes. They were talking of doing the kar seva from below, not from above. Advani told me he wanted to talk to the DM. He also told about talking to the Chief Minister, but I pleaded helplessness. One person, who had come with Uma Bharati, was making fun of the Supreme Court. After some time, Advani and Joshi went to the office of Ram Katha Kunj, and told me they were talking to the Chief Minister. I saw fire and smoke rising at all sides in Ayodhya. Advani told me... [page 92 bottom: seems some lines are missing here]... began to distribute sweets... . Advani came back at about six and a half. With him there were Murli Manohar Joshi, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Ashok Singhal and Vinay Katiyar etc. About the speeches from the stage, I have already told. I remember the atmosphere became surcharged with Advani’s arrival. People were raising slogans, but I could not hear any other slogan because of being busy with other works. Joshi had spoken earlier, he had said whatever Narasimha Rao could say, the temple would be constructed here. I did not see these leaders making any attempt to prevent the kar sevaks from demolishing the disputed structure. Advani was sad that people were falling from the domes and dying... on the fall of the first, second and third domes, Uma Bharati and Ritambara had embraced each other; sweets were also distributed. The two had also embraced the males. Embracing Advani, Joshi and S.C. Dixit, Uma Bharati and Ritambara were expressing their happiness. On the fall of the domes, all the said eight accused and Acharya Dharmendra etc were congratulating one another. All were expressing happiness.”

Renu Mittal confirmed reports in The Hindu and The Indian Express (December 7, 1992): “L.K. Advani began to address the kar sevaks over the mike from the protection of the Ram Katha Kunj platform. In the rush of shouts and the milling confusion he could be overheard telling the kar sevaks to block all entry points to Ayodhya to stop anyone entering the town. He also announced that the kar seva that begun today would only end once the mandir nirman was completed... . At 3-30 p.m. the left dome of the Babri Masjid was demolished. Many of the kar sevaks were injured and some of them were buried under the falling of the debris of the dome.”

Triyugi Narayan Tewari told the police: “The RSS workers also climbed the domes and demolished the disputed structure. Sh. Ashok Singhal, L.K. Advani, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, Murli Manohar Joshi, Acharya Dharmendra, Sadhvi Ritambara were also present there and were inciting the kar sevaks.”

A few statements, about 5 or 6, averred that Advani urged the kar sevaks to climb down; evidently for their own protection. For, some were buried in the debris.

The Magistrate’s observations on the course the case took are significant. “This is an indisputable fact that the High Court had before itself a combined charge-sheet in cases 197/92 (demolition) and 198/92 (speeches) and, compared to this court, the High Court was presented with much more evidence/statements of witnesses. Apart from it, the High Court had before it the charge under Section 120 IPC (conspiracy), which was not included in the charge-sheet filed in this court. After the said judgment, an order was passed by the Special Judge (Ayodhya Prakaran), Lucknow, in which 21 accused were recognised as accused in case 198/92 (speeches) and proceedings against them were ordered to be stopped. These included the eight accused named in the charge-sheet filed in this court. Thereafter, the CBI requested the State government to rectify the said shortcoming in the notification dated 8/10/93, but the said shortcoming was not rectified by the State government. After that, special writ petitions were filed by Bhure Lal and three others against the said judgment of the High Court, on which the Supreme Court issued its judgment/order on 29/11/2002. Under the said order of the Supreme Court, a petition has been filed by the CBI in this court constituted under the former notification, on which the CBI was directed to get the papers in case 198/92 (speeches) and present in this court. The record of case 198/92 (speeches) was received and then the CBI filed a supplementary charge-sheet. At present the case is being heard in this court under the Supreme Court order dated 29/11/2002. Thus this court has considered the material presented to it about this charge. Statements of some more witnesses were considered after the CBI filed a charge-sheet and some evidence along with it and, later, after its advance investigation.”

THUS the CBI itself dropped the conspiracy charge (Section 120 IPC). The Magistrate lists some 19 considerations for framing the charges. Two of them read thus: (2) “If the case falls in the area of doubt, it cannot take the place of proof at the conclusion of the hearing. But if there is serious doubt in the initial stage and it leads the court to think that there is ground to believe that the accused has committed the offence, then the court is not allowed to say that enough ground is not there for proceeding against the accused... (8) If material has been presented before the court and that creates serious doubt against the accused and has not been adequately explained, it is justified for the court to frame charges and start hearing.” He violated both.

He recorded: “In the videocassettes presented to the court, no leader is seen making a speech during the demolition of the said structure on 6/12/92. From a perusal of all the statements under Section 161 CrPC and the available material, it appears prima facie that there were two groups during the event - one was demolishing the disputed structure while the other was, along with the security forces, attempting to prevent the demolition of the disputed structure. The prosecution witness Shri Ram Kripal Das has said in his statement, among other things, that the kar sevaks were greatly excited and loudly telling that (they) would not stop even if some leader tried to stop them.

“In her statement, Anju Gupta has specifically said that on 6/12/92 she was deployed for Lal Krishna Advani’s security. She has also said that the S.P. Intelligence and the Commandant of the 15th Battalion were with Murli Manohar Joshi Ms. Anju Gupta is an IPS officer and, as is evident from her statement, she was deployed for Lal Krishna Advani’s security. Therefore, Anju Gutpa’s statement is extremely important regarding L.K. Advani. She has said the following in her statement: “I had seen some boys advancing towards the disputed structure from the Kuber Tola side, with tools in their hands. Then Shri Lal Krishna Advani asked me what was happening inside the temple... .”

“From this statement, the prima facie conclusion emerges that at that time L.K. Advani did not know that demolition of the disputed structure had started. Besides, Advani’s contention in Anju Gupta’s statement that `I want to go and tell them to come down’ generates another view contrary to the prima facie charge against him. In her statement, Anju Gupta has not indicated any such contention by any other leader. She has also said Advani had asked her what was happening at other places and she had said she did not know. The fact of Advani inquiring about what was happening at other places prima facie reveals his ignorance.” How does his ignorance of what was happening at “other places” in the city prove his ignorance of what was happening before his and everyone else’s eyes - demolition of the mosque. His reasoning is palpably wrong. First, there were no “two groups” of leaders, implying that Advani belonged to one that tried to pacify the mob while the rest instigated it. Who were Advani’s allies in the pacificatory effort or was he alone in this? There were in fact two sets of statements before the court. It is not the number but the quality that matters. Even so, the overwhelming majority explicitly implicated Advani along with the rest as an instigator. The minority is not only small but pathetically laboured in its apologia.

Secondly, from a mere query by Advani to Anju Gupta, Vinod Kumar Singh jumps to the astonishing conclusion that “L.K. Advani did not know that demolition of the disputed mosque had started.” The demolition was surely there for all to see. The query was “what was happening inside the temple” (sic.). His concern was not to stop the demolition, else he would not have urged barricading of the roads to prevent Central forces from arriving. The reason for his disquiet was different as she clearly mentioned: “Advani was sad that people were falling from the domes and dying.”

Thirdly, the Magistrate holds that “Anju Gupta has not indicated any such contention (sic.) by any other leader.” On the strength of this solitary statement, Advani alone is exonerated. Her statement itself is palpably misconstrued. Lastly, the Magistrate embarked on the evaluation of the evidence. He singles out her statement, misconstrues it, and ignores the enormous bulk, which clubbed Advani with the rest. This is in clear breach of the law as laid down by the Supreme Court.

The Magistrate holds: “On the basis of the material presented to the court, and having considered the extensive possibilities and the total impact of the evidence in the light of both sides’ arguments, I am of the opinion that two views appear probable only about the prima facie charge brought against the accused Lal Krishna Advani. One view is that, prima facie, the crime was caused by Lal Krishna Advani to be committed and the other view is that, prima facie, the crime was not caused to be committed by him. After having considered the available material and the two sides’ arguments, in my opinion, suspicion but no serious suspicion, seems to exist about the accused Lal Krishna Advani having caused the crime to be committed under Sections 147/149/153A/153B/505 IPC. On the contrary, having considered the available material on record in the light of the two sides’ arguments, I am of the opinion that serious suspicion exists about the crime having been caused under Section 147/149/153A/153B/505 IPC by the other accused Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Sadhvi Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Ritambara, which the said accused have been unable to explain... . As per the above discussion, as two views are possible regarding the accused Lal Krishna Advani’s offence and there exists only suspicion (keval sandeh) that he caused the said crime to be committed, therefore under the said ruling the accused Lal Krishna Advani deserves to be acquitted from the charge in the case in question.

“As per the above discussion, serious suspicion (ghor sandeh) exists that the crime was caused to be committed by the accused Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Sadhvi Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Ritambara, which the said accused have been unable to explain, therefore in the light of the said ruling, a prima facie case is made against the accused Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, and the rest.”

The Magistrate, in effect, tried Advani on the merits instead of framing charges against him since a prima facie case was disclosed warranting a full trial. Only at the end is the accused entitled to benefit of the doubt. The reasoning is tortuous in the extreme. The conclusion is manifestly demonstrably wrong. Magistrate Vinod Kumar Singh’s judgment prevents Advani’s trial on grounds that are manifestly wrong. Criminal proceedings in the Ayodhya case have taken a bizarre course. In the Sessions Court at Lucknow, the Judge Srikant Shukla drops the conspiracy charge on May 4, 2001, in breach of the High Court’s ruling on February 12, 2001. In the Rae Bareli court the CBI drops that charge in its “supplementary” charge-sheet on May 30, 2003. What are we coming to? The civil proceedings are as disquieting; especially after the order for excavation by the Special Bench of the High Court last March. As for the CBI’s role the less said the better.

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