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Trial in razing of structure at Ram Janmabhoomi nears completion

The CBI court trial in "criminal conspiracy" to raze down the disputed structure on Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya in 1992 is also heading towards culmination as the sessions court in Lucknow has fixed December 24 as the last day of presenting prosecution evidence.

The prosecution was recently castigated by the Sessions Court for not bringing witness against Kalyan Singh, the then chief minister, in spite of repeated orders of the court after framing of charges on September 29, 2019.

On October 5, 2019, the Sessions Court hearing the matter had said that as per Supreme Court orders all evidence have to be presented before December 24, 2019 which would be the last working day.

The trial against BJP leaders L K Advani, Uma Bharti and Murali Manohar Joshi had started at the Lucknow special court on May 25, 2017 after the Supreme Court on April 19, 2017 struck down an Allahabad High Court's order discharging them in the case.

Singh, who was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the 16th-century structure was razed on December 6 in 1992, was put to trial two years later in September 2019 when his term as Rajasthan Governor got over. As a Governor he had immunity from the legal procedure.

The Supreme Court in its order on April 19, 2017 had directed to complete the trial within two years. The apex court had again on July 19, 2019 directed that judgment in the case should be delivered within a period of nine months.

The agency had taken over probe in two crimes--crime no 197 of 1992 against Kar Sewaks for bringing down the structure and crime no 198 of 1992 against eight accused L.K. Advani, Ashok Singhal, Vinay Katiar, Uma Bharati, Sadhvi Ritambara, Murli Manohar Joshi, Giriraj Kishore and Vishnu Hari Dalmia related to hate speech.

The CBI on October 5, 1993 filed a consolidated charge sheet against 48 persons adding 13 accused Bala Saheb Thackeray, Kalyan Singh, Moreshwar Save, Champat Rai Bansal, Satish Pradhan, Mahant Avaidyanath, Dharam Das, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, Mahamadleshwar Jagdish Muni, Ram Bilas Vadanti, Vaikunth Lal Sharma, Prama Hans Ram Chandra Das, and Dr. Satish Chandra Nagar.

On October 8, 1993 the state government amended its notification to include crime number 198 against the eight persons to be tried in Lucknow. The notification was struck down.

The CBI filed a supplementary charge sheet against the eight accused in 1996 at Lucknow.

On September 9,1997, the Special Judge, Lucknow passed an order that there was a prima facie case against all the accused persons for framing charges of criminal conspiracy under Section 120-B read with various other sections of the Penal Code.

Citing technical issues in the government notification handing over case to Lucknow Sessions Court, Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court on February 12, 2001 allowed single charge sheet for all offenses but denied framing of charges against the eight accused in crime number 198.

The agency requested the state government to amend its notification but it was rejected. The agency filed a supplementary charge sheet in Rai Bareli court.

The Lucknow special court on May 4, 2001 dropped proceedings against 21 accused including the eight accused in crime number 198. This was upheld by the High Court in 2010.

In 2003, the Rae Bareli court discharged Advani, then Deputy Prime Minister in case no. 198, but ordered framing of charges against the remaining accused.

The trial continued in courts of Lucknow and Rai Bareli, when CBI in 2012 approached the Supreme Court seeking common trial against all the 48 accused.

It said that 21 accused, including the 13 not being tried in any court, were part of criminal conspiracy to raze down the structure

The Supreme Court on April 19, 2017 transferred the trial in Rai Bareli to Lucknow with an instruction to finish in two years.