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Conspiracy charges against Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti to apply

The Supreme Court has allowed Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) appeal challenging the withdrawal of conspiracy charges against senior BJP leaders including LK Advani on Wednesday. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti will be facing trial.

Kalyan Singh, as Governor of Rajasthan enjoys constitutional immunity from being tried in a court of law and the Supreme Court has said that no case can be registered against him as long as he is serving as governor. The top court has mandated that the trial has to be completed within two years and this matter will be heard in the Lucknow court. The Supreme Court also said that the case shall be transferred within four weeks from Rai Bareilly to Lucknow.

Others who will face criminal conspiracy charges are Vinay Katiyar,Sadhvi Ritambara,Satish Pradhan,Champat Rai Bansal and Late Giriraj Kishore.

The apex court has also said that no adjournment would be given under normal circumstances and no judge hearing this case would be transferred.

The CBI had moved the apex court against the May 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict dropping conspiracy charges against the senior BJP leaders. Advani and Joshi, along with Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar (BJP), Sadhvi Rithambra, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia (VHP) were facing trial for making speeches from the dais at Ramkatha Kunj prior to the razing of the 16th Century mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya on 6 December, 1992 by Hindu right-wing activists.

Kishore and Singhal have since passed away. On 6 April, before reserving the order, the top court bench had indicated that as far as conspiracy charge was concerned it may invoke extraordinary powers under the Constitution’s Article 142 and transfer the ongoing trial from Raebareli to Lucknow so that eight leaders, including Advani and Joshi, could be tried for conspiracy along with 13 others.

Both Advani and Joshi had opposed top court taking recourse to Article 142 for transferring the trial to Lucknow and the revival of the conspiracy charge. They had contended that their fundamental rights under Article 14 and Article 21, could not be eclipsed by top court taking recourse to its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the constitution. However, the bench asked: “What about Article 21 when it comes to the rights of the victims. Article 21 has many facets” and referred to nine-judge constitution bench judgment which said: “You can’t show fundamental rights to the court in exercise of its powers under Article 142.”

However, it is important to note that in the last 25 years, the CBI and Liberhans Commission was unable to collect credible evidence to arraign the RSS-BJP-VHP leaders in order to prove charges of criminal conspiracy. As argued in this earlier piece, perhaps this could be a way for the Supreme Court to set up guidelines on how the powers-that-be could respond to such a situation in the future.

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