A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on September 30 acquitted all accused, including senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani, in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case.
CBI judge SK Yadav, in his 2,000-page judgement, said there was no criminal conspiracy and that there was not enough evidence to prove that the demolition was pre-planned.
Besides Advani, other senior BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Rithambara were also among the accused.
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“I wholeheartedly welcome the judgement by the special court in Babri Masjid demolition case. The judgement vindicates my personal and BJP's belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi movement,” news agency ANI quoted Advani as saying.
“It's a historic decision by the court. This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the December 6 incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy. We are happy. Everyone should now be excited about Ram Mandir's construction,” Joshi said, according to ANI.
On September 16, the judge had directed all 32 surviving accused to remain present in the court for the judgment. However, six of them were exempted from being present in person -- including Bharti and Kalyan Singh who are in hospital due to COVID-19 -- and joined via video conference.
The 16th century Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 by "kar sevaks" who claimed that the mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple.
The Supreme Court had set August 31 as the deadline for the CBI court to deliver the verdict in the matter. This was later extended by a month.
Also read: A timeline of events leading up to the verdict
The central agency produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 17 have died during the course of trial. The trial under the serious criminal conspiracy charges commenced against them after having been dropped by the trial court in 2001.
The verdict was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, but the top court ordered restoration of the conspiracy charge against them in April 2017. The apex court had also ordered daily hearing in the high profile case and directed the special judge to conclude it in two years.
Also read: Key things to know about the case
The charges against the accused were promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, having made assertions "prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship", indulging in "deliberate and malicious" acts intended to outrage religious feelings, uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.
The CBI had argued that the accused conspired and instigated 'kar sevaks' to demolish the mosque.
However, the accused had pleaded innocence maintaining that there is no evidence to prove their guilt and claimed they were implicated by the then Congress government at the Centre as a political vendetta.
In a significant judgment in November 2019, the Supreme Court allotted the disputed site in Ayodhya for construction of a Ram temple, while calling the demolition of the mosque a violation of the rule of law. An alternative five-acre site was marked in Ayodhya for construction of a mosque. The bhoomi pujan for the temple was held on August 5.