Charges framed against Advani, Joshi, Bharti in Babri case

A special CBI court in Lucknow today framed charges against former deputy prime minister and senior BJP leader LK Advani, BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi and union minister Uma Bharti, along with nine others in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti  

The charges were framed under section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code after the court rejected defence counsel's "discharge application" in which the accused claimed not guilty in the Babri Masjid razing case.

A special court hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case, however, granted bail to L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti after they appeared before it and sought bail.

The court also granted bail to BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, VHP's Vishnu Hari Dalmia and one-time Hindutva firebrand Sadhvi Ritambara, who all presented themselves before the court.

Special CBI court judge S K Yadav, granted bail to all six against whom the CBI had levelled conspiracy charges on a personal bond of Rs50,000 each.

The Lucknow court framed charges against the BJP leaders after the Supreme Court ordered restoration of the serious offence of criminal conspiracy against them.

The Supreme Court had, on 19 April, ordered the prosecution of Advani (89), Joshi (83), Bharti (58) and the others and had directed that the trial should be concluded in two years.

The court, which is hearing two separate cases relating to the conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid and the actual razing of the 16th century structure, had granted bail to Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahant Ram Vilas Vedanti, Baikunth Lal Sharma alias Prem Ji, Champat Rai Bansal, Mahant Dharma Das and Satish Pradhan earlier this month in the second matter.

Advani, Joshi and Bharti did not turn up in court as directed on 25 and 26 May, upon which the special court declined to grant further adjournments or exemption from personal appearance.

The Supreme Court had termed the razing of Babri Masjid as a "crime" which shook the "secular fabric of the Constitution" while allowing the CBI's plea seeking restoration of the criminal conspiracy charge against the four BJP leaders, including Katiyar (62), and against Ritambara (53) and Dalmia, who is in his late eighties.

However, the court said BJP leader and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the structure was razed, can claim immunity under the Constitution as long as he remained governor.