SC order on Babri, late but welcome

The Supreme Court’s order to reopen criminal conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders, including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti, for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 is a welcome assertion of the rule of law, though much too belated. The demolition of the mosque by a frenzied Hindutva mob was the worst attack on the country’s secular edifice in its republican history. Over 2,000 people were killed in the riots in its wake. It is shameful that no one has been held accountable for the crime for a quarter of a century. The cause of justice is slow and tortuous, especially when powerful people are involved. But delayed justice may be better than denied justice, more so when greater national ideals are involved more than individual destinies, and have to be reaffirmed for the good of the nation.

There was no question about the charges invoked in the two cases relating to the demolition. There was a criminal conspiracy to demolish the mosque. This and the actual demolition cannot be separated. But the trial did not proceed for the most technical reasons and the court has said that the CBI, which investigated the case, should be faulted for this. The two separate trials in the case will now be bunched together and heard in the same court on a daily basis, with a deadline of two years for completion. The demolition happened after a long campaign for the construction of a Ram temple on the spot where the masjid stood. It was led by Advani and others who are named in the cases now. It is for the court to decide whether the campaign, the conspiracy and the act of demolition can be legally linked and the accused held liable. Evidence in the public realm and the findings of enquiry commissions have pointed in that direction. The Liberhan Commission had come to the clear conclusion that BJP leaders were to blame for the demolition. The court will, however, have the final say.

The BJP has been opportunistic and devious about the role of its leaders in the Babri case. It has enjoyed the credit for the demolition and politically benefited from it but has denied any legal responsibility for it. A new generation of leadership is in charge now and the fixing of accountability may not personally affect them. But the party will be on test as much as its veteran leaders during the trial. Union Minister Uma Bharti and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh should also step down from their official positions in the interest of propriety. Hopefully, there will be a just closure of the case.

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