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Babri demolition case deferred to May 13

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | April 26, 2003 18:28 IST

Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani was exempted from appearance on Saturday, April 26, in a special court at Rae Bareli, 85km from Lucknow, hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case.

Advani and seven other prominent leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad accused of plotting and abetting the demolition of the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992 were to appear before the special court on Saturday.

While allowing the exemption on an application by counsel for the deputy prime minister, Special Judicial Magistrate Vinod Kumar Singh fixed May 13 as the date for the next hearing of the case, a court official said.

The others facing the same charges are Union Human Resources Development Minister M M Joshi, former Union minister Uma Bharti, then Bajrang Dal chief and now Uttar Pradesh BJP president Vinay Katiyar, VHP leaders Ashok Singhal, Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Giriraj Kishore and Sadhvi Rithambara. But separate applications were made on behalf of each for exemption from appearance.

Significantly, though Advani pleaded inability to be present in court, he arrived in Kanpur, barely 80km from Rae Bareli, to participate in a series of party functions on Saturday. "Well, the court has accepted my plea for exempting Mr Advani from appearance today," said Mahipal Singh, counsel for the deputy prime minister.

Criminal proceedings were initiated against 49 persons in a Faizabad court shortly after the demolition of the mosque, but later in 1993, to expedite the case, the state government issued a notification to set up a special trial court in Lucknow.

Eight years later, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court found a technical flaw in the constitution of the special trial court and held it to be invalid. Meanwhile, the trial court in Lucknow bifurcated the charge sheet clubbing Advani and 20 other VIPs in one and the rest in another.

The high court had, however, held that criminal proceedings could be revived if the state government issued a fresh notification after following the statutory procedure and taking its permission.

While then BJP chief minister Rajnath Singh slept over the issue, his successor Mayawati went a step further. Having struck a rapport with Advani, she flatly refused to issue a fresh notification, thereby granting the deputy prime minister the much desired reprieve from a case in which he had been charged by both the criminal investigation department of the state police and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

In an obvious quid pro quo, Advani has turned a deaf ear to his own partymen's continued grouses against the whimsical and condescending style of functioning of the Bahujan Samaj Party leader.

Significantly, the CBI has changed all its lawyers who had been handling the case over the last 10 years, allegedly to help the BJP bigwigs embroiled in the case.

CBI counsel S KGandhi, however, declined to answer queries regarding the agency's alleged dilly-dallying.

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