New Delhi: New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray and 18 others in the Babri mosque demolition case, while a Delhi court accepted a plea to withdraw a two-decade-old Bofors arms deal case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.
The Supreme Court bench comprising justices V.S. Sirpurkar and T.S. Thakur has sought responses within four weeks from the accused political leaders and others on the petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which seeks to restore charges of criminal conspiracy against the 21 accused.
The Babri Masjid, a historic mosque that stood on a disputed religious site in Ayodhya, was razed by a mob on 6 December 1992.
In May, the Allahabad high court upheld a trial court order dismissing criminal charges against the leaders. CBI’s petition seeks to reopen the criminal case on the demolition of the mosque.
The agency claimed that a trial court had erred in quashing charges of criminal conspiracy.
“It appears an artificial distinction was made by the trial court attempting to assign a role in respect of each of the accused persons and to see which offences were made out,” the petition said. “The trial court erroneously came to the conclusion that 21 persons were not entitled to be tried in the case (pertaining to the demolition).”
Solicitor general Gopal Subramanium, who appeared for CBI, questioned the legality of the Allahabad high court’s order, which upheld a special CBI judge’s decision to quash charges of criminal conspiracy against the leaders.
Other top BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders accused in the case include Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vinay Katiyar, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Sadhvi Rithambara and Mahant Avaidya Nath. Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh are also named.
“The order passed by the high court results in serious miscarriage of justice, violates the principle of consolidated investigation, consolidated charge sheet and also disables an effective trial,” the petition said.
In September, the Allahabad high court ruled that the disputed site in Ayodhya should be shared between Hindus and Muslims.
Separately, Quattrocchi was discharged in the Bofors case on the grounds that the country cannot afford to spend hard-earned money on his extradition, which has already cost Rs 250 crore, said the court.
“Can we allow this hard-earned money of aam aadmi (common man) of India to be spent on these type of proceedings which are not going to do any good to them, after almost 25 years of the so-called arms deal. The answer would be a big no,” ruled chief metropolitan magistrate Vinod Yadav in his 73-page order.
“The very question which stares us at our faces is whether it is justified for the government and CBI to continue to spend on the extradition of “Q”, which may or may not ultimately happen during his lifetime,” the court said, allowing the CBI plea to withdraw the case against the 70-year-old fugitive.
Quattrocchi, who fled from India in July 1993, has never appeared before any court in the country to face prosecution.
The court held that the decision of the CBI to withdraw prosecution of Quattrocchi appeared to be “bona fide”, or in good faith, and in the larger public interest.
The court accepted the CBI plea noting that two earlier attempts by it to extradite Quattrocchi from two different countries, Malaysia and Argentina, have “miserably failed”.
PTI contributed to this story.