NEW DELHI :
The Supreme Court on Friday directed the special judge hearing the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case, involving Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veterans L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, to deliver his verdict within nine months.
In 2017, the Supreme Court had appointed special judge Surendra Kumar Yadav to conduct day-to-day trials in the case and conclude it within two years, after coming down heavily on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for dragging the trial for 25 years. However, on 15 July, judge Yadav informed the apex court that he was due to retire on 30 September, and would need another six months to conclude the trial.
In view of his request, a SC bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman and comprising Justice Surya Kant, also directed the Uttar Pradesh government to pass orders to extend the tenure of the special judge. However, the bench clarified that the extension was just with respect to the Babri Masjid trial.
“The special judge, after two years of virtual day-to-day hearing, is at the fag end of the hearing of the case and requires little more than six months to complete the trial together with the delivery of the judgement," the apex court observed during a hearing on Monday, adding that the recording of evidence in the case should be completed within six months.
On 19 April 2017, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton Nariman revived the trial in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, allowing fresh charges of criminal conspiracy to be brought against Advani, Joshi and Bharti, besides 10 others.
The bench had also directed the transfer of cases from a court in Rae Bareilly to a special court in Lucknow which was already hearing related cases. The court had directed that the trial must be concluded in two years without adjournments and that the special judge will not be transferred till the trial was over. Out of the 13 accused in the case, BJP leader Kalyan Singh will not face fresh charges because he enjoys Constitutional immunity as the governor of Rajasthan.
Before the 2017 verdict of the apex court, two sets of cases relating to the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, were going on at Lucknow and Rae Bareilly. The trial of the first case involving unnamed ‘karsevaks’ was being held in a Lucknow court, while the second relating to eight VVIPs was held in Rae Bareilly.