Lucknow, Sep 30: A special CBI court here on Wednesday acquitted all the 32 accused, including former deputy prime minister Lal Krishan Advani, in the demolition of 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, on lack of evidence.
Special Judge S K Yadav said the anti-social elements were behind the razing of the Mosque and the Central Bureau of Investigation failed to establish a link between the accused and these elements.
He said newspaper cuttings and its photographs cannot be termed as evidence. “Also, the video cassettes produced as evidence were unsealed. There were no negatives of the photographs, while the video scenes were unclear,” Mr Yadav stated.
“How can I punish anyone on the basis of photographs or newspaper cuttings?”, Mr Yadav questioned.
As per the court, stone pelting started behind the Babri Mosque at around 1200 hrs on December 6, 1992.
‘VHP president Ashok Singhal wanted to save the structure as there were deities inside and hence, he had asked all the Kar Sevaks to bring water and flower in their both hands, so that they do not get involved in the razing of the Mosque,’ the Judge said.
Yadav mentioned the witness Anju Gupta, a former police officer, produced by the Central Bureau of Investigation, who had admitted that several criminals and dacoits were among the Kar Sevaks.
‘The prosecution could not prove the link between the accused and the anti-social elements involved in razing the Babri Mosque,’ the court said.
Yadav asserted that all 32 accused have been acquitted on the basis of laxity on proving their guilt under Section 65 of the Evidence Act and claimed that anti-social elements were behind the demolition.
As per the reports, as soon as the verdict was announced, the courtroom roared into “Jai Shri Ram” slogan. The court had asked all the accused to be present inside the courtroom.
All were inside except L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, Satish Pradhan and Mahant Nritya Gopal, who attended the proceedings via video-conferencing.
It was also the last working day of Judge Yadav, as he retired today. His tenure was earlier extended by a year.
The CBI counsel, on the future course of action, told reporters in Lucknow, that the judgement would be studied and the next step be decided.
‘After a copy of today’s verdict is received, it would be sent to the CBI headquarters where it would be studied by the legal department and a decision on filing an appeal would be taken as per its suggestion,’ CBI counsel Lalit Singh said.
The judgement was criticised by Muslim bodies, several parties in Opposition, including the Congress, Left and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
Calling the verdict unfair and unjust, the All India Muslim Personal Board asked the CBI to file an appeal against the acquittal.
AIMPLB General Secretary Maulana Mohammad Wali Rahmani, in a statement here said, ‘Whatever may be the reason for acquittal, but this is also a fact that many of us have seen videos and photos of demolition and it is in open’.
Expressing anguish, All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi called the verdict “obnoxious” and said the Central agency should appeal against it.
Speaking to mediapersons, Owaisi said, “This judgement satisfies the collective consciousness of Hindutva and its followers and ideology”.
He questioned that if the accused were not guilty, then how come the Mosque was grounded.
‘Was it some sort of magic that on December 6 the Masjid was demolished? Who called for the assembling of the people over there? Who made sure that they entered over there?,’ he asked.
The Congress called the verdict a violation of constitutional spirit.
‘Acquittal of all accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case runs counter to the Supreme Court Judgement and Constitutional spirit,’ the Congress said.
‘Every Indian, who has innate faith in the Constitution, expects Centre and the state government to appeal against the special court decision in the Babri case,” it added.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yechury termed the judgement as complete travesty of Justice.
“All charged with criminal conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid acquitted. It self imploded? The Constitution Bench headed by then CJI had said that demolition was an ‘egregious’ violation of law. Now this verdict! Shame,” he tweeted.
However, L K Advani wholeheartedly welcomed the verdict.”The judgement vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi movement,” Mr Advani said.
“I also feel blessed that this judgement has come in the footsteps of another landmark verdict of the Supreme Court given in November 2019, which paved the way for my long cherished dream of seeing a grand Shri Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, the foundation laying ceremony of which was held on August 5, 2020,” he added.
Murli Manohar Joshi said he was overwhelmed as the court looked into all facts.
The Supreme Court, in its historic November 9, 2019 judgement on Title Suit, had noted that demolition of Babri Masjid was a “calculated act”.
‘….the entire structure of the Mosque was brought down in a calculated act of destroying a place of public worship…..The Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a Mosque, which had been constructed well over 450 years ago,’ a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi noted in its verdict.