SC hints at ordering joint trial in Babri case

Consolidated trial needed for 'complete justice', says court

SC hints at ordering joint trial in Babri case

The Supreme Court on Thursday hinted at ordering a consolidated trial “to do complete justice” in two separate cases relating to the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition.

One case is being tried at Lucknow against Kar Sevaks, and another at Rae Bareli involving senior BJP leader L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharti. A bench of Justices P C Ghose and R F Nariman said in a case like this the court has to step in to do complete justice.

“We can do it (joint trial) using our inherent powers under (Article 142) the Constitution. When there was one conspiracy, why should there be separate trials? It has been going on for almost 25 years now. We may ask the HC to designate a judge who can conduct a time-bound trial so that it can finish in two years,” the bench said.

“We cannot let technical defects come in the way. It is a question of evasion of law against evasion of justice,” the bench said, reserving its order on the CBI’s plea to include criminal conspiracy charge against senior BJP leaders .

Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for Advani and Joshi, opposed any move to hold a joint trial, saying the Allahabad High Court had rejected the transfer of the Rae Bareli case to Lucknow court in 2001, which was subsequently upheld by the apex court. He also said such a direction would negate all previous orders.

To this, the bench said the right under Article 21 is not confined to the accused, but is extended to the victims, too. The time-bound joint trial in a matter pending for 25 years will be good for the accused as well, the bench added.

‘Counter-productive’

Venugopal said that the order of joint trial would be “counter-productive” and added there was no evidence to show that the leaders conspired with “one lakh kar sevaks” to demolish the disputed structure. It would require fresh investigation and then a complete re-trial with fresh examination of all the witnesses if the conspiracy charges were to be added, he pointed out.

Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul, however, submitted that the CBI was for reviving the criminal conspiracy charge against 13 accused, including Advani, Joshi, Uma, Kalyan Singh and others. The accused could not go scot free because of the technical lapse and that they must be tried somewhere, he said.

He said the order passed by the Allahabad HC in 2010 dropping the conspiracy charge should be set aside. The law officer, however, maintained that transferring the Rae Bareli case to Lucknow would lead to de nova (fresh) trial with fresh examination of witnesses.

Appearing for Haji Mahboob Ahmad, one of the intervenors, senior advocate Kapil Sibal argued for a joint trial, saying both the cases arose out of one incident and a single conspiracy.

The court reserved its order and gave all the parties to furnish their written submission by Tuesday.

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