Lucknow, Sep 30 (PTI): Twenty-eight years after the Babri Masjid was razed, a court here acquitted all 32 people including BJP veterans L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti accused of being involved in the demolition of the mosque they believed occupied the spot where Lord Ram was born.
In a judgment that ran to 2,300 pages with enclosures, the special CBI court on Wednesday said there was no conclusive evidence against the 32 accused of being involved in any conspiracy to bring down the disputed structure in Ayodhya.
Delivering the verdict on the day of his retirement, special Judge S K Yadav did not accept newspaper reports and video cassettes as evidence.
The court also observed that the late Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal wanted to save the structure because Ram idols were inside.
The 16th century mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992, triggering riots that left hundreds dead in the country and widening rifts between the communities.
Twenty-six of the accused were present in the Lucknow court when the judge read out the operative portion of the verdict.
Former deputy prime minister L K Advani, the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, former Union ministers Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, Ram Janmaboomi Teerth Kshetra Trust president Nritya Gopal Das and Shiv Sena leader Satish Pradhan had sought exemptions from personal appearance.
Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti are in hospital recovering from COVID-19. The Ram temple trust president was also tested positive last month.
The judge took his seat at 12.10 pm and spent five minutes reading out the operative part of his judgment.
As he pronounced them not guilty, some of the accused chanted “Jai Shri Ram” in the court. As did Advani, a key figure in the Ram temple movement, at his home.
“It is a very important decision and a matter of happiness for us. When we heard the news of the court’s order, we welcomed it by chanting Jai Shri Ram,” he said in a video message.
The verdict comes less than a year after the Supreme Court’s historic judgment in the related Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute that paved the way for the construction of a temple at the Ayodhya site.
The apex court verdict had called the demolition an egregious violation of the rule of law.
But combined with the bhoomi pujan’ for the Ram temple only last month, the verdict in the demolition case has come as boost to the Bharatiya Janata Party. It also helps bring the temple issue centre stage just weeks before the party faces assembly polls in Bihar.
Iqbal Ansari, a prominent litigant in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, welcomed the verdict.
“It is good that all have been acquitted. Whatever had to happen, happened on November 9 last year. This case should also have ended the same day, he said, referring to the Supreme Court judgment.
Raman Singh terms it ‘historic’
Raipur: Senior BJP leader and former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Wednesday hailed the acquittal of all 32 accused in the Babri masjid demolition case, calling the judgment as “historic”.
In a video message uploaded on Twitter, Singh said, “Today a historic judgment has been delivered.”
“The matter was sub-judice since the last 28 years and today the court, while giving its decision has clarified that all senior leaders, including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and others, who were then present on the stage (near the mosque) neither gave provocative speeches nor talked about razing any structure,” he said.
“It was a natural reaction that led to demolition of that structure. Ultimately the truth has won and we welcome this historic judgment,” he added.
Counter to constitutional spirit: Congress
The Congress on Wednesday said a special CBI court’s decision to acquit all the accused in the Babri Masjid case runs counter to constitutional spirit and the 2019 Supreme Court judgement that described the demolition of the structure as an “egregious violation of the rule of law”.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said every Indian who has innate faith in the Constitution and in the spirit of communal amity and brotherhood expects and urges the Central and state governments to file an appeal against the verdict delivered Wednesday.
The governments must follow the letter of the law and the Constitution without any “partiality and pre-meditated prejudice” Surjewala said, adding this is the true calling of rule of law and Constitution.
“The decision of the Special Court to acquit all the accused in Babri Masjid demolition case runs counter to Supreme Court judgement as also the constitutional spirit,” he said.